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Old 06-19-2009, 05:53 AM
 
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Default Midwest Regional Rail Initiative

For those of you with an interest:

Midwest Regional Rail Initiative - Mn/DOT

Note that in the current map, the Eastern-most city is Cleveland. For roughly $40 million, more, the route could be extended to Pittsburgh through Youngstown and New Castle.

Too bad our Governor and our Department of Transportation doesn't seem to be interested in getting on board with this.
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Old 06-19-2009, 07:15 AM
 
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A high-speed rail (HSR) link between Cleveland and Pittsburgh is almost surely going to happen if we end up being serious about expanding HSR in the United States (and all indications are that we will be). However, it will probably happen after the completion of the Keystone Corridor (linking Pittsburgh by HSR to Philly) and a direct HSR link between Cleveland and Chicago are established.

For one look at how this could work, see here:

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/Rail/Programs/passenger/Documents/OHIO_HUB_Corridor_Phasing_Map.pdf (broken link)

In Phase Three (in this map, scheduled for 2012), Cleveland gets a more direct link to Chicago (meaning without having to go up through Detroit first). Then, in Phase Four (2013), they finally build the Pittsburgh-Cleveland link. And in Phase Five (2014), they link Pittsburgh to Columbus.

Note this is an Ohio-centric plan. But I also think it represents the general thinking on this subject: linking Pittsburgh to Ohio is not in the very first round of planned routes because linking Pittsburgh to the East Coast and Ohio to the Midwest are higher priorities. But linking Pittsburgh to Ohio is a top priority for the second round, precisely because that is the quickest route for linking much of the East Coast and the Midwest.
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Old 06-19-2009, 07:51 AM
 
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The Keystone Corridor may be a Federally designated HSR route but there are simply no plans to upgrade to HSR West of Harrisburg. For one thing, Norfolk and Southern owns the rights of way. For another, the mountainous terrain makes HSR (and electrification), impractical. If higher speeds were possible using existing technology and rights of way, N&S would have done it long ago.

To be competitive with other forms of traffic, rail speeds and costs, downtown to downtown need to approximate those of an alternative mode of travel. If people can drive in significantly less time than travel by rail they will.

Even with diesel-powered tilt-trains, we won't see the kind of speeds to compete with other HSR routes. It would be more practical to press for 150 MPH upgrades to the Corridor East of Harrisburg and from Pittsburgh to DC.

Would I like to see a HSR route to Philly? Sure. But do I want to wait for that to be completed before we do more practical things? No. Pittsburgh to Cleveland is practical and affordable and there is already luxury bus service to Harrisburg which is twice as fast as the same trip by train.
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Old 06-19-2009, 08:28 AM
 
Location: Philly
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
The Keystone Corridor may be a Federally designated HSR route but there are simply no plans to upgrade to HSR West of Harrisburg. For one thing, Norfolk and Southern owns the rights of way. For another, the mountainous terrain makes HSR (and electrification), impractical. If higher speeds were possible using existing technology and rights of way, N&S would have done it long ago.
Spain is mountainous and perhaps has the best HSR network in Europe so I don't buy the "impractical." Moreover, if our governor should be concerned about any HSR, it should be the Keystone corridor since he's the Governor of Pennsylvania, not Pittsburgh and Ohio. the current right of way was once four tracks, no reason it can't be again. In the long term, I'd like to see a plan to tunnel through the alleghenies to cut travel time on both freight and passenger trains. Also worth noting, NS runs freight and has no practical use for higher speeds. one of the problems on that line is that conrail ripped out all the interlockings AND two tracks so there are fewer places to pass, thus causing the train to be slower than it otherwise would have to be. I think you could easily knock an hour off that trip BEFORE getting to the big money, and maybe 2.5 hours before you get to the tunneling portion. You can probably reasonably get 20 minuts off an express east of harriburg with tilt trains BEFORE going to 150 mph (though upping it to 125 mph). there are still a lot of slow spots

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
Even with diesel-powered tilt-trains, we won't see the kind of speeds to compete with other HSR routes. It would be more practical to press for 150 MPH upgrades to the Corridor East of Harrisburg and from Pittsburgh to DC.
whoah nelly. have you ever ridden these trains? just take out a basic map. the Pennsylvania RR line to Philly is a former engineering marvel. It's well banked and graded. The former B&O line to DC is slow and extremely curvy as it follows the rivers. the difference between the DC and Philly routes reflects the well capitalized Pennsylvania who had the best engineers around the the undercapitalized B&O. If you were to compare dropping $500 million into one or the other, you're going to get a lot more bang for your buck out of the Pennsylvania. Intermediate points of Johnstown, Latrobe, Altoona, Harrsiburg, Lancaster are more desirable than Connelsville and Cumberland. Bear in mind, of course, that upgrades east of harrisburg will also benefit the Pittsburgh line, though even east of Harrisburg they need some track straightening, esp at Gap, Pa.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
Would I like to see a HSR route to Philly? Sure. But do I want to wait for that to be completed before we do more practical things? No. Pittsburgh to Cleveland is practical and affordable and there is already luxury bus service to Harrisburg which is twice as fast as the same trip by train.
and I'd bet you more people still take the train. It's not exactly twice as fast, though it's significantly faster. Bear in mind that not being HSR doesn't mean no service. I believe the route to cleveland is already good for 79 mph.
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Old 06-19-2009, 09:03 AM
 
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I ride about 30,000 miles/year on Amtrak, including Pittsburgh-Cleveland which is 135 miles and a little under 3 hours by Amtrak which puts it at 45 miles/hour. There are stretches where trains can go 79 MPH but many where they can't without significant upgrades. One of the reason for the switch from the Ravenna route to the route through Youngstown is the cost to go to higher speeds.

And I've ridden the intercity trains in most of Europe, including Spain. Remember, however, that Spain is one country. In the US we are talking about states competing for limited resources.

As for the Governor being the Governor of Pennsylvania, so what? Service from Harrisburg to Philly has done relatively well. When has he shown an interest in rail to the West? What has Rendell done for Pittsburgh other than get us a casino.

Furthermore, Ohio has already said that it would pay much of the cost of the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh route and owns the Panhandle Line to Columbus. LaHood has announced that funding will give preference to shovel ready projects and as the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh route is already a right of way, there would be little in the way of evironmental impact statements to be completed. LaHood has, by the way, also stated that he would give preference to multistate collaborations rather than improvements that would benefit a single state.

The fact that N&S is a freight line means little in terms of their interest in higher speeds. Higher speeds means more efficiencies and the ability to compete with trucking (though there is a lot more intermodal, now).

You'd need to knock a minimum of 90 minutes off the Pittsburgh-Harrisburg to make it feasible given the current time is roughly 6 hours (by which time you could have been in Philly by car, or even Washington or Baltimore where you could take Acela).

Finally, there is the question of ridership. If we contrast the number of trips from Pittsburgh-Philly (in which Philly is the destination instead of a layover), with those between Pittsburgh and Washington or Pittsburgh and Chicago, I think that you'd find the latter more widely used.

As for the marvel of engineering, you are correct, though the Horseshoe Curve is going to foil the most sophisticated of tilt-trains. But New York to Chicago via the water route was always faster than Philly to Chicago (and, without significant engineering, always will be). And the limitation on the B&O (or C&O) routes has much to do with track conditions which would fairly easy to fix (with money) and which would allow tilt trains.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:20 AM
 
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To clarify my prior comment, I don't actually think completing the Keystone Corridor is strictly necessary before linking up Cleveland and Pittsburgh. But I am not quite as dismissive as Joe about the possibility that the Keystone Corridor will get the necessary funding anyway--we're really waiting to see what the Feds come up with, and I believe the draft National Rail Plan isn't due to come out until this October/November, with the final plan coming out in 2010.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:59 AM
 
Location: Philly
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[quote=JoeLeaphorn;9367060] I ride about 30,000 miles/year on Amtrak, including Pittsburgh-Cleveland which is 135 miles and a little under 3 hours by Amtrak which puts it at 45 miles/hour. There are stretches where trains can go 79 MPH but many where they can't without significant upgrades. One of the reason for the switch from the Ravenna route to the route through Youngstown is the cost to go to higher speeds.[/quote 79 mph doesn't qualify as high speed, even in America. It's not like upgrades can't occur, there's already money alloted for state corridors every year.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
And I've ridden the intercity trains in most of Europe, including Spain. Remember, however, that Spain is one country. In the US we are talking about states competing for limited resources.
one mountainous country the size of a state. that's not the real difference and you know it. we just aren't committed to building high speed rail here. there's nothing impractical about building a tunnel, it's quite the opposite.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
As for the Governor being the Governor of Pennsylvania, so what? Service from Harrisburg to Philly has done relatively well. When has he shown an interest in rail to the West? What has Rendell done for Pittsburgh other than get us a casino.
when you're governor of Pennsylvania, the first route that should concern you is one traversing Pennsylvnian.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
Furthermore, Ohio has already said that it would pay much of the cost of the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh route and owns the Panhandle Line to Columbus.
good, they can connect to the Keystone corridor.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
LaHood has announced that funding will give preference to shovel ready projects and as the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh route is already a right of way, there would be little in the way of evironmental impact statements to be completed.
AFAIK, there shouldn't be any need for an environmental impact study if you're simply putting in track, interlockings, and signaling on the keystone line.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
LaHood has, by the way, also stated that he would give preference to multistate collaborations rather than improvements that would benefit a single state.
that statement makes a lot of sense for certain routes such as in the northeast or midwest but it's asinine across the board. California and Pennsylvania should be penalized simply because their states are larger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
The fact that N&S is a freight line means little in terms of their interest in higher speeds. Higher speeds means more efficiencies and the ability to compete with trucking (though there is a lot more intermodal, now).
It means a lot, there's little incentive to go above 79 mph.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
You'd need to knock a minimum of 90 minutes off the Pittsburgh-Harrisburg to make it feasible given the current time is roughly 6 hours (by which time you could have been in Philly by car, or even Washington or Baltimore where you could take Acela).
which is entirely possible. at that point it would be just as fast to take the train to philly and catch a regional washington than catch a train directly to washington. a few years ago the state studied taking the trip time down to 5.5 hours without tilt technology and found it was expensive but feasible.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
Finally, there is the question of ridership. If we contrast the number of trips from Pittsburgh-Philly (in which Philly is the destination instead of a layover), with those between Pittsburgh and Washington or Pittsburgh and Chicago, I think that you'd find the latter more widely used.
maybe chicago but I doubt washington....and why limit it to Philly which is on the way to NYC, Atlantic City, and offers excellent connections to Baltimore and washington DC. There are plenty of ex-burghers living in Philly. Perhaps you're one of those guys who visited Philly in the 70's and decided never to go back.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
As for the marvel of engineering, you are correct, though the Horseshoe Curve is going to foil the most sophisticated of tilt-trains. But New York to Chicago via the water route was always faster than Philly to Chicago (and, without significant engineering, always will be).
I'm not sure about that, it isn't today and it's the shorter route of the two. NY-Philly also has much larger destinations than the NY water line. Pittsburgh is twice the size of Buffalo in terms of metro population and Philly is more than the entire water level route east of cleveland.

It's worth noting that the Pennsylvania railroad was started by a bunch of Philadelphia entreprenurs who were worried that their city and state would be eclipsed. Had they thought like you, Pennsylvania would look more like West Virginia than it does today.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
And the limitation on the B&O (or C&O) routes has much to do with track conditions which would fairly easy to fix (with money) and which would allow tilt trains.
yeah, nothing to do with rivers. it takes almost 9 hours to get to DC along an extremely curvy railroad. and it's almost never on time. you luck getting that up to speed. in contrast, the harrisburg line is well maintained and almost always on time. In fact, I've arrived 50 minutes early a few times.
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Old 06-19-2009, 12:35 PM
 
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I disagree with most of what you say but I won't argue. I will predict that the Harrisburg to Pittsburgh route will not be funded in the next two HSR cycles and that the Midwest initiative will be, including parts of the Ohio Hub.

I also predict that ridership projections and population densities along the entire route will make it a lower priority among HSR projects than, say, Pittsburgh to points West.

I'd be happy if you were right (except not at the expense of Pittsburgh-Chicago), but I doubt it.

Furthermore, it makes little economic sense. Demographically and economically, Pittsburgh is part of the Midwestern economy, not the Eastern economy.
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Old 06-19-2009, 01:20 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
Furthermore, it makes little economic sense. Demographically and economically, Pittsburgh is part of the Midwestern economy, not the Eastern economy.
For what it is worth, according to this analysis of economic connections between cities (see page 8):

http://www.brookings.edu/metro/pubs/...orldcities.pdf

Pittsburgh's top 20 most linked cities are:

1 DC
2 Cleveland
3 Dallas
4 Philly
5 St. Louis
6 Charlotte
7 Boston
8 Minneapolis
9 Indianapolis
10 Kansas City
11 Denver
12 Atlanta
13 Seattle
14 Detroit
15 New York
16 Chicago
17 LA
18 San Francisco
19 San Diego
20 Portland

Based on this list, I don't think there is actually an overwhelming reason to prefer a HSR link either way, and in fact it seems clear both would be useful.
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Old 06-19-2009, 02:20 PM
 
Location: Philly
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLeaphorn View Post
I disagree with most of what you say...

I also predict that ridership projections and population densities along the entire route will make it a lower priority among HSR projects than, say, Pittsburgh to points West.

I'd be happy if you were right (except not at the expense of Pittsburgh-Chicago), but I doubt it.

Furthermore, it makes little economic sense. Demographically and economically, Pittsburgh is part of the Midwestern economy, not the Eastern economy.
I disagree with most of what you have to say. I think that Chicago will be at the top of the list but I also think that going east, Philadelphia will be the link, NOT DC. Population densities actually make it preferrable for real HSR though and one shouldn't get too caught up with regional economies when talking about a real HSR train which could put Pittsburgh within 2.5 hours of Philadelphia. There was an article in the journal a while back about spain. Regions had little travel between each other (probably due to the mountainous terrain) but when they built the trains, it changed everything. It's a transformative project much like the interstate highway system. I'd also argue that there's more benefit in getting people out of planes going to Philadelphia and NY than Cleveland. Pitt-Philly is the link between the east coast and midwest. It's the shortest route and if they build a tunnel, it would be even shorter..and it could lessen the coast of moving freight off ports in NJ and Philadelphia into the midwest. Lastly, Pittsburgh is starting to resemble an east coast city more and more. Philly has Penn & Drexel, boston MIT & Harvard, and Pitt CMU and Pitt. (even if Pitt is more comparable to Temple). Philly has CHOP/HUP, Pitt as UPMC. It's also the most likely, IMO, to turn things around...much more so than Buffalo or Cleveland.
Brian-I believe almost half of travel these days is leisure/personal business. nonetheless, an effective eastern connection would allow for transfer to DC and a straight shot to NY. Boston might eventually be a 6.5 ride.
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