Friday, January 9, 2009

Southeast High-Speed Line Declared Feasible

A study sponsored by transportation departments of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia has concluded that extending the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor (SEHSR) south from Charlotte, NC, to Macon, GA via Atlanta would be feasible. The SEHSR's Washington - Charlotte section was one of the five original corridors designated by the U.S. Department of Transportion in 1992. In 1998, the USDOT extended the corridor into South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The study's "best case" scenario sees the line operating with diesel-powered trains capable of top speeds of 125 or 150 mph, with 14 stops in the corridor and good connections to improved service north of Charlotte. Here are some of the key statistics for the proposal.

Technology 125 mph 150 mph (Diesel)
Travel time 4:05 3:36
Capital costs $2,060 M $2,520 M
Passengers (2025) 1,077,000 1,142,000
Revenues (2025) $27.0 M $29.1 M
O&M costs (2025) $32.0 M $33.1 M
Profit/loss (2025) ($5.0 M) ($4.0 M)
Break even year 2032 2031

But, don't expect this document to lead to new service anytime soon. All it does is reiterate a similar study completed in 2004 and lay the groundwork for further studies. The next step is to conduct surveys to develop detailed ridership/revenue projections. An important aspect will be incorporating travel to points north of the SEHSR such as New York and Boston.

When that is done, the agencies would produce a Tier I
Environmental Impact Study. That study establishes the project's purpose, approach and corridor location and size. It also is the first step in the Federally-mandated EIS process mandated for potential transportation infrastructure investments under the National Environmental Protection Act. No wonder "shovel-ready" high-speed rail projects are few and far between.

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