A newly-formed activist group has its sights set on bringing high-speed rail to the Pacific Northwest region. Cascadia Rail and its members envision a new high-speed train network connecting Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada with an eastern offshoot between Seattle and Spokane, Washington. The group, emboldened by the recent success of the Seattle Subway coalition and its transformative Sound Transit 3 metro expansion in 2016, is banking that growing regional awareness around the interconnectedness of transit, climate, and social justice issues will coalesce in their favor. The group launched the initiative via Seattle Transit Blog in a post earlier this month with the slogan “You deserve faster.” Backers of the group argue that access to high-speed transit could help alleviate regional inequality, economically link a string of vibrant international cities together, and boost regional tourism. The initiative has been under study by the Washington State Department of Transportation since 2017. The department submitted a report late last year to the Washington State legislature recommending more study on the issue and urging state, federal, and Canadian agencies to move toward facilitating a plan. The department compared traditional steel wheel and Maglev trains as well as Hyperloop systems for the study. Preliminary estimates in the report put the cost of the new high-speed system at between $24 billion and $43 billion, depending on routes and train technologies chosen. The Washington State Legislature is currently considering a two-year transportation funding bill that could include up $3.6 million earmarked for detailed study following up on the 2017 report. If funding for the additional study is approved, analysis could be completed as soon as mid-2019. A timeline for design and construction of the train network has not been put forth.
Posts tagged with "high-speed rail":
After several months of blustering and delays, the Federal Transit Administration has finally signed off on the full $647 million in federal funding needed to electrify California’s Caltrain commuter rail system. The move comes several anxious months after the new administration indicated it would scuttle previous funding agreements for public transportation projects across the country as a way to punish cities that have so thoroughly rejected the new president. The funding was originally completely left out of the earliest budget proposals announced by the White House, but hope returned two weeks ago when a preliminary congressional plan seemed to walk back the de-funding talk. That budget contained partial funding commitments for urban transportation initiatives, including $100 million for Caltrain electrification. After weeks of outspoken criticism from California’s political leadership and pleas from transportation activists, news this week of full funding for the project was widely seen as a welcome political victory. In a statement celebrating the new funding agreement, Jim Hartnett, CEO of Caltrain touted the economic development potential for the project, Mass Transit reports, saying that Caltrain Electrification will ease congestion in “one of the country’s most economically productive regions” while also “creating almost 10,000 American jobs in the process.” Caltrain, a regional commuter rail network that serves the Bay Area and its environs, is in the midst of converting its diesel-powered train fleet into an electrically-powered one. Train electrification produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel power—especially when the energy used to power the trains is generated through renewable means—and has also been recently touted as a vehicle for so-called solutionary rail reforms. Solutionary rail approaches combine sustainable electrical grid modernization initiatives with high-speed rail expansion to multiply the environmental benefit of train networks. Although electrified railways are the norm in countries with advanced train networks, only about 1% of rails in the US are electrified. In California, the move is a necessary precursor to the state’s forthcoming High Speed Rail network. Electrification will require that Caltrain purchase new locomotives and the organization is currently soliciting input on forthcoming train graphics. Caltrain is currently working on the designs for the electrification improvements and is expected to begin construction sometime this year, with a project completion deadline of 2020 or 2021. For more information on the Peninsula Corridor Electrification project, see the Caltrain website.
California breaks ground on High Speed Rail system that will one day connect Sacramento with San Diego
It's not often that the eyes of the country are fixed on Fresno. But this week, after years of fights and dozens of lawsuits, California's $68 billion High Speed Rail system is finally breaking ground there. The system, funded largely by state and federal money (much of that is still pending), is expected to eventually extend 800 miles from Sacramento to San Diego and include 24 stations. A route from San Francisco to Los Angeles is expected by 2029. The first stretch of the electric bullet train initiative, between Fresno and Bakersfield, will be built by Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick. Construction is beginning in the Central Valley, say officials from the California High Speed Rail Authority, to lower costs, speed construction, and get access to more federal funds. They noted that the plan will add a much-needed economic boost to the emerging area's long-struggling cities, like Fresno, Bakersfield, and Merced. The second phase of construction will connect the Central Valley to the San Fernando Valley, the third will connect the Central Valley to San Jose, the fourth will connect the San Fernando Valley with Los Angeles and Anaheim, and the fifth will complete the connection from Sacramento to San Diego. New stations are moving ahead, some faster than others. Anaheim just opened HOK and Buro Happold's ARTIC Station, Los Angeles is beginning radical changes to Union Station designed by Grimshaw and Gruen, and San Francisco is building perhaps the most ambitious of them all, Cesar Pelli's Transbay Center. Even Fresno is getting in on the act, hiring AECOM to study a station there. Besides needing billions more dollars, the High Speed Rail Authority still has to condemn thousands of acres of land before this all becomes reality.
[Editor's Note: The following comment was left at archpaper.com in reference to John Gendall’s feature article on multi-modal transit hubs (“The Golden Ticket” AN 07_08.06.2914_MW). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ] The original design of all grand U.S. railroad stations fit the architectural design foundation “form follows function.” Unfortunately the years have not been kind to these railroad stations. Real estate developers have coveted the rail yard property for non-transportation development. In some cases these rail yards have yielded to interstates, highways, and streets. This has transformed the depot (waiting room, ticket offices, etc.) into just “a nice old building that used to serve the traveling public.” Denver is a prime example of a real estate grab. A beautifully designed rail yard gave way to developers interests. Look at the Google Maps satellite view. Transportation design was an obvious afterthought. The rail yard is stubbed, necessitating a time-consuming backup move for any train, namely Amtrak’s California Zephyr, using the original waiting room. Any future Front Range development will also require a backup. The light rail system is tucked away, far from the grand original structure. The wispy “Sidney-Opera-House-Denver” platform cover design is curious. It stands in stark contrast to the architectural elements of the original depot. A Google image search of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station does not reveal the austere feel purported in this article. What it may need is just a spit and polish rehabilitation. Those who want to remodel the structure seem to stand arrogantly. They claim the original designs were flawed and that somehow modern architects and planners can do a better job. So, will Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station become another depot from the grand era of passenger rail to fall to the modern architect? If the regal designs of the past are too ostentatious, then an entirely new depot should be constructed. The old should be left undisturbed until a new generation of architects discovers that their great grandfathers knew better how to design transportation facilities. Evan Stair Executive Director Passenger Rail Oklahoma
With another set of renderings revealed for Florida's upcoming commuter rail service, it's clear that SOM hopes to give the system a highly recognizable visual brand. After the firm unveiled plans for All Aboard Florida's Miami Station, which floats the rails 50-feet above grade on trusses, SOM and Zyscovich Architects revealed its design for the smaller Ft. Lauderdale station, which clearly borrowed heavily from the first. The 27,500-square-foot hub is also defined by reinforced concrete trusses. And today, with images released for the West Palm Beach station, we know those trusses aren't going anywhere. The West Palm Beach station sits on a 2.5-acre site located in the city's downtown and is designed to link commuters to the state's Tri-Rail system and the Amtrak West Palm Beach station. As with Ft. Lauderdale, this station is comprised of glass and concrete boxes that lift above grade atop reinforced V-shaped braces. The stations' similar designs is not on accident. "A common material palette, design aesthetic, and planning strategy unite the three facilities," SOM said in a statement. "Envisioned not only as gateways to their respective cities, but also as iconic destinations in their own right, the three stations are positioned to become centers of gravity for significant urban redevelopment." Passenger service could start as early as 2016.
In May, SOM released renderings for Miami Station—a 1,000-foot-long, multimodal transit hub that would anchor the Sunshine State’s impending high-speed commuter rail system known as All Aboard Florida. The firm floated the station 50 feet atop reinforced concrete trusses to allow for restaurants and retail, and an uninterrupted street grid. Now, with the Miami station getting underway, SOM has unveiled plans for the system's Ft. Lauderdale station, and it appears that a design trend is emerging down in Florida. At first glance, the 27,500-square-foot station, designed by SOM and Zyscovich Architects is just a smaller version of the first go-round in Miami as it is similarly defined by concrete trusses and lifted above grade. It is primarily comprised of stacked glass boxes that rise over the street and connect the ticketing lobby to the departures area. "Given the large scale of the All Aboard Florida project, creating a sense of overall unity for the entire transportation network – while conveying a sense of identity for each individual station – is one of the primary design goals," said SOM in a statement. "The design of the Fort Lauderdale station achieves this balance by incorporating the lightness and transparency that characterizes the Miami terminal, while taking advantage of its unique site to create a distinctive landmark for the port city. "Its design—lightweight and luminous—both responds to its setting and creates a striking infrastructural icon for the city," said Roger Duffy, a design partner at SOM, in a statement. This is essentially the same way Duffy described Miami Station when AN sat down with him in June. If it ain't broke... SOM and Zyscovich are also designing All Aboard Florida's stations in Orlando and West Palm Beach, but no word yet on what a design for those stations might look like, or if trusses are slatted for those cities as well.
Despite ongoing delays, lawsuits, and government holdups, it appears that California's High Speed Rail (HSR) plans (and their associated stations) are ready to move ahead. Last week the United States Department of Transportation issued a "Record of Decision" for HSR's initial 114-mile section from Fresno to Bakersfield. The decision, "represents a major step forward, both for the State of California and for High Performance rail in the U.S," Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement. On the state level California governor Jerry Brown earlier this month managed to secure $250 million for the project from the state's yearly cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions fund. That number could total $3 billion to $5 billion in coming years. The total amount of track built in the network will measure over 800 miles. But the estimated $68 billion project is still short of the federal funding it needs, and there are a number of significant obstacles left. According to the Contra Costa Times, a Sacramento judge has blocked, pending appeal, the $8.6 billion in state bond funds owed to the project. The state also owes the federal government $160 million in order to receive $3.5 billion in matching funds, and the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block funds to the project as part of the federal transportation bill. Although that vote is anticipated to be overturned by the Democratic Senate. Still, California's HSR stations continue to move ahead, regardless of whether the tracks ever get built. Grimshaw and Gruen's plans to transform Union Station in Los Angeles just passed another benchmark, Pelli Clarke Pelli's San Francisco's Transbay Center is moving ahead as well, although perhaps without its signature rooftop park. And the furthest along is Anaheim's ETFE-topped ARTIC station, designed by HOK and Buro Happold. The multimodal facility combining bus, rail, high speed rail, shuttles, and more—is scheduled to be finished late this year. All of these stations will serve multiple transit functions, even if HSR never happens. But it sure would be a waste if that came to pass.
Amtrak is out with a new promotional video, and it’s targeted right at millennials. As UrbanCincy reported, “On the heels of kicking off their new Writers Residency program, where writers can ride intercity passenger rail for free, Amtrak welcomed 30 prominent new media ‘influencers’ on a long-distance train ride from Los Angeles to SXSW in Austin.” These initiatives are part of Amtrak’s larger goal to increase ridership outside of the Joe Biden demographic. To boost their street (track?) cred, Amtrak, set their new, trendy video to "Busy Earnin’" by Jungle, which is a #cool #song. During their journey, the "influencers" shared their experience on twitter by hashtagging their way to the festival. But Amtrak knows that increased inter-city rail travel will take more than high-speed wifi—it will take high-speed trains. And across the midwest, at least, Amtrak is working on just that by boosting service and speeds between cities like Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. [Via Streetsblog.]
When Elon Musk makes plans he makes no little ones. And he feels California shouldn’t either. This is the rationale behind Hyperloop Alpha, a supersonic, solar-powered, air-cushioned transit system (and future “Never Built”?) he views as the bolder alternative to conventional high-speed rail. It’s not a train, exactly. It’s more a hybrid between high-speed rail and the Concord. It’s Mr. Musk’s answer to the ever-delayed and increasingly expensive bullet train being proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Project that was supposed to be “shovel ready” in 2012. Turns out it’s more complicated and expensive to build high-speed rail than anybody in the state ever thought. Could Hyperloop, more bullet and less train, be the answer? If it’s true it could be built for less than one-tenth the cost of the $70 billion high-speed rail system, then perhaps yes. For a mere $20 (He’s really thought this out) you would be able to strap yourself into a thin aluminum tube and get shot (at speeds of up to 750 mph) to San Francisco in about 35 minutes. The design doesn’t feature any windows, so hopefully there will at least be some video monitors or soothing ambient lighting to relax passengers who are essentially locked inside a jet engine hurtling itself through an elevated steel pipeline. In a conference call following the release of the 57-page PDF outline of the project, Musk said there could be a prototype ready for testing within the next four years. Perhaps it’s time for the California High-Speed Rail Project to hire Mr. Musk and his team of engineers and optimists. At least then California could have some form of 21st-century transit underway before 2020.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today named Illinois’ Department of Transportation the leader of a multi-state effort to advance high-speed rail. Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will use $808 million from the FRA to build 35 new diesel locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. California led the group last year, in which 130 bi-level rail cars were procured for high-speed service. “Our goal is to offer 110-mile-per-hour service on at least 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor—the segment from Dwight to Alton—by the end of 2015,” Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann L. Schneider said in a statement, “and these locomotives are the key to achieving that goal.” A test run on a portion of that track last fall set a regional record for high-speed rail at 111 mph. Full service at that speed between Dwight and Joliet is expected in 2017. Illinois is also working with Michigan to provide 110-mph service from Chicago to Detroit. The trip would take roughly three hours at that speed.
Midwest train travelers will enjoy a quicker passage, as Amtrak approves a new top speed of 110 mph for a section of its Chicago-St. Louis route. Though trains will only accelerate to the new top speed over a 15-mile segment, officials said another $1.5 billion investment over three years of upgrades will bring the rest of the track up to speed. The current top speed is 79 mph over most of the route. Instead of 5 and a half hours, future trips could be under 4 hours. Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak tested a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates earlier this year. Amtrak's Midwest presence has seen a significant ridership boost, following trends around the country. Transit in general may be enjoying a small renaissance, with the CTA counting 16 months of rail and bus line increases. Despite setting ridership records, Amtrak is losing money and faces an uncertain future.
Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak have sought permission from federal regulators to conduct the first test of high-speed rail in Illinois. A 20-mile track between the cities of Dwight and Pontiac could be a proving ground for the 110 mph passenger train starting October 1. They would be testing a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates — one that uses radio signals to raise gates 80 seconds before a crossing in order to give the faster trains more time to slow down or stop if necessary. The current system uses track circuits to communicate, and allows the normal 79-mph trains 30 to 35 seconds of clearance before a crossing. The Illinois Department of Transportation will conduct a survey to determine whether motorists will tolerate the longer wait times. Funding for high-speed rail was narrowly approved in California earlier this month, as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and others continued to build on growing excitement for high-speed rail in the heartland.