FRA Issues Record of Decision for Merced-Fresno High Speed Rail Segment

    -HSR Updates

    Today, the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Record of Decision for the segment of the route between Merced and Fresno. The approval will enable the authority to launch construction next year, according to a press release.

    The FRA approved the “hybrid alternative” for the route, which was approved by CHSRA’s board in December. The route will minimize the need to acquire property, requires the shortest length of elevated track, is the least expensive to build, includes the fewest potential noise impacts and minimizes the impact on parks and other public space, according to the authority.

    The Merced-Fresno section of the statewide high-speed rail corridor is the first of several projects that will make up the backbone of the system that, once complete, will connect the Central Valley to San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than two hours.

    Richmond-Hampton Roads High Speed Rail Project Moves a Step Closer With Final Environmental Impact Statement Approval

    -FRA

    Newly identified preferred route connects to Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor

    WASHINGTON September 5, 2012- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and its state partner, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT), have issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for two routes connecting the Hampton Roads area to Richmond and the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.   The newly identified route south of the James River recommends a new, alignment from downtown Norfolk through Petersburg to Richmond at speeds of up to 90 mph , while maintaining Amtrak’s current service from Newport News through Williamsburg to Richmond.

    “Connecting to the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is vital for the economic development of the Hampton Roads area,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “From Charlotte to Washington, there will be easy access to historic Williamsburg and to our military bases at Norfolk and Newport News.”

    The new route south of the James River could include up to six daily round trips operating at speeds up to 110 mph between downtown Norfolk, Chesapeake (Bower’s Hill Station), Petersburg and downtown Richmond.  The FEIS also recommends continuing Amtrak’s “Northeast Regional” service between Newport News and Richmond to serve the communities and attractions north of the James River.

    Both routes will connect to the Southeast High Speed Rail corridor in Richmond, providing passengers the ability to travel south to Charlotte, N.C. (and Atlanta in the future) and north to Washington, DC and beyond.  In 1992, the U.S. Department of Transportation designated the “Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor” to connect Richmond and Charlotte with Washington; and in 1995, the corridor designation was extended from Richmond to Hampton Roads… Read More

    U.S. Congresswoman calls for High-Speed Rail Linking Manhattan to Canadian Cities

    -The Globe and Mail

    New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is known for never letting up until she gets what she wants. She successfully championed a “bill of rights” for credit card holders over the objections of the big banks. She was one of the leading proponents in a nearly 10-year battle to get Congress to cover the health-care costs of 9/11 first responders.

    Now, she wants governments in her country and Canada to get moving on building a high-speed rail line that would link Manhattan, where her district lies, to cities north of the border.

    “It would really help the economies of our countries dramatically,” Ms. Maloney insisted in an interview with The Globe and Mail, as she prepared to take the stage on Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention here. “Both of our countries should get behind it, push it and make it happen.”

    The dream of bringing European fast trains to North America has been around for decades without making much headway. But it got a powerful boost from President Barack Obama, whose stimulus bill allocated $8-billion for the development of high-speed rail projects. Most of that money is still waiting to be spent.

    Only one cross-border link – between New York and Montreal – is mentioned in the U.S. Transportation Department’s 2010 list of “priority corridors.” But little progress has been made on advancing the project advocated by the Quebec government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed no enthusiasm for the idea.

    READ MORE

    Illinois bill sets rail construction authority

    -Railway Age

    The Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) says Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed state House Bill HB4078, strongly backed by the association, “which allows the Illinois Toll Highway Authority to use all of its existing powers to construct railroad tracks.” Such authority is generally, and often explicitly, banned in many states within the U.S.

    “Now, Illinois has another entity that can assemble right-of-way, design the civil works, issue bonds, and manage the construction of high-speed tracks, MHSRA said. The association called the measure “one of our top priorities, due to its wide range of benefits.”   The bill in part states, “The Authority may charge an access fee to any passenger or freight rail operator who wishes to use tracks which the Authority has constructed using the powers granted by this Section. Moneys in the Road Fund may not be used to implement this Section. Authorization must be granted to the Authority for each individual and distinct railroad track project.”   At a signing ceremony Aug. 24, Quinn (holding bill, photo above left) took time to highlight the need to connect Rockford, Ill., to O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago with high speed rail. The next step is for the Toll Authority to conduct a feasibility study of the O’Hare-Rockford segment of the overall network, MHSRA said.   MHSRA Executive Director told Railway Age Friday the Illinois Department of Transportation already is using its existing authority to reconstruct the Chicago-St Louis route for 110 mph speeds, and to add new Amtrak service to numerous cities, including to the Quad Cities in Iowa. “We are glad these projects are moving forward,” Harnish said.

    Richmond to Hampton Roads HSR Project receives Final Environmental Impact Statement approval

    -RT&S

    The Federal Railroad Administration and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) have issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for two routes connecting the Hampton Roads area to Richmond and the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor in Virginia. The newly identified route south of the James River recommends a new, 90-110 mph alignment from downtown Norfolk through Petersburg to Richmond, while maintaining Amtrak’s current service from Newport News through Williamsburg to Richmond.

      The new route south of the James River could include up to six daily round trips operating at speeds up to 110 mph between downtown Norfolk, Chesapeake (Bower’s Hill Station), Petersburg and downtown Richmond. The FEIS also recommends continuing Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service between Newport News and Richmond to serve the communities and attractions north of the James River.   Both routes will connect to the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor in Richmond, providing passengers the ability to travel south to Charlotte, N.C. (and Atlanta in the future) and north to Washington, D.C., and beyond.   “The approval of the FEIS represents a major milestone in the process including a thorough analysis incorporating public input to recommend these routes,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. “This plan will expand the passenger rail network connection with a vital passenger rail corridor.”   After a 30-day comment period and resolution of all outstanding issues, FRA will issue a Record of Decision (ROD) on the project, the final step in the environmental review. The ROD will identify the selected route, present the basis for the decision, identify all alternatives that were considered, specify the environmentally preferable alternative and provide information on the adopted means to avoid, minimize and compensate for environmental impacts. Upon signature of the ROD, the National Environmental Protection Act process will be complete.

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