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High-speed rail forum looks at future

By Michael Bolden

10 a.m. Update: Rail advocates sketched a vision Monday for a 17,000-mile network linking U.S. cities with electric trains capable of traveling at 220 miles per hour.

Hundreds of politicians, business leaders, urban planners and academics gathered in New York City to assess the state of high-speed rail in the United States -- and to look forward to dramatically transforming rail travel.

Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, said the transportation network would cost $600 billion over the next 20 years. The high-speed rail corridors would parallel the interstate highway system, he said, and would be implemented in four phases. A segment from Washington to New York would be in the first phase to be implemented by 2015.

"This is not your grandfather's train," Kunz said.

New York Gov. David Patterson said what is called high-speed rail is actually two different speeds: making rail improvements that would allow trains to increase their speeds to 110 to 120 mph, which is proposed for the Richmond to Washington corridor, and the so-called bullet trains "we see in Japan." Such trains would enable travel from New York to Albany in 28 minutes, he said.

Original post: NEW YORK -- Politicians, business leaders, urban planners and academics converged on New York City Monday for a two-day symposium on the state of efforts to upgrade America's train infrastructure and make high-speed rail a reality.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced awards of $2.4 billion to fund efforts to improve rail service across the United States. But high-speed rail has come under attack after the November elections as some Republicans leaders have announced they will kill rail projects.

Gov.-elect Scott Walker wants to scuttle a Wisconsin high-speed rail project that would link Madison and Milwaukee. In Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich has asked the Obama administration for permission to repurpose $400 million in high-speed rail funds for highway projects. Kasich says Ohio doesn't need the project and doesn't know who would ride the trains. However, LaHood responded that the state will forfeit the money if it doesn't use them for high-speed rail.

Amtrak recently unveiled a $117 billion, 30-year vision for high-speed rail on the East Coast that would drastically reduce travel times in the Northeast, Amtrak's busiest corridor.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman said the rail agency envisions a system that would reduce the travel time between Washington and New York City from 162 minutes to 96 minutes and the travel time between New York and Boston from 215 minutes to 84 minutes.

Amtrak has named veteran transportation professional Albrecht "Al" Engel, who serves on the board of directors of the American Public Transportation Association, as vice president of a new high-speed rail department. Engel is scheduled to participate in a panel on Tuesday that discusses the feasibility of U.S. train travel in the Northeast mirroring the speeds of bullet trains in Europe and Japan.

Currently Amtrak's Acela trains run as fast as 150 mph, but south of New York, Acela runs at 135 mph because of curves, tunnels and additional station stops.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last month as part of the high-speed rail awards that Virginia would receive $45.4 million to help fund studies and preliminary engineering to upgrade the Southeast rail corridor, improving travel time between Charlotte and Washington.

By Michael Bolden  | November 15, 2010; 7:41 AM ET
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Did you mean Monday in your update? Last I checked we haven't gotten around to Tuesday yet...

Posted by: Razor04 | November 15, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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