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Richmond-Washington HSR Plans?


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#1 Anderson

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 08:34 PM

I saw a piece on this last night...does anyone know what the "actual" Richmond-Washington HSR plans look like? I'm asking because I've not seen an EIS or feasibility study from this side of the Wilder/Allen-era stuff from the early 90s (about the same time some genius decided they wanted to look at running a 150 MPH train down the Peninsula subdivision), but there seems to (still) be bipartisan support for a high speed line. This comes up partly because VA put in for $1.8 billion for it a few years back but didn't go back when the Florida money got returned, largely because there simply wasn't enough match money set aside at that moment, to say nothing of being able to guarantee a 2017 completion date (as apparently required by the law...IIRC, the project is expected to be an 8-year building project). Sadly, the DRPT page is a bit mum on this, only listing a bunch of incremental stuff (again, dating from the early 90s) with little, if any, mention of a big-budget item.

From what I've heard, the talk is of a 2022 start date and a 2030 completion date (ugh...I'm going to blame the same planning rules that require the state to decide on new stoplights several years out for this timetable), but I have no idea what the "real" plan is (i.e. is the plan for 90 MPH? 110? 125? 150? What about the alignment...existing RF&P? Something slightly straightened? Something brand new a bit to the east?)...and apparently the project is holding the support of one of the more libertarian members of the House of Delegates here. So, like I said, anybody know more (such as what VA's HSR application listed)?

As an addendum, it sounds like the SEHSR stuff is still on course for the most part.

(And yes, this is in the Amtrak forum on purpose...the only talk of anything 150 MPH or faster in VA that I've ever seen was that wacky Richmond-Newport News project, so I'm skeptical that there's suddenly a major plan to run a 150 MPH train from DC to Richmond or something like that. Mind you, I think it's one of the better markets for it...the line is basically in the black from what I can tell...but I'm still skeptical of it.)

Edited by Anderson, 18 January 2012 - 08:39 PM.

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#2 Sky Pilot

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:14 PM

I saw a piece on this last night...does anyone know what the "actual" Richmond-Washington HSR plans look like? I'm asking because I've not seen an EIS or feasibility study from this side of the Wilder/Allen-era stuff from the early 90s (about the same time some genius decided they wanted to look at running a 150 MPH train down the Peninsula subdivision), but there seems to (still) be bipartisan support for a high speed line. This comes up partly because VA put in for $1.8 billion for it a few years back but didn't go back when the Florida money got returned, largely because there simply wasn't enough match money set aside at that moment, to say nothing of being able to guarantee a 2017 completion date (as apparently required by the law...IIRC, the project is expected to be an 8-year building project). Sadly, the DRPT page is a bit mum on this, only listing a bunch of incremental stuff (again, dating from the early 90s) with little, if any, mention of a big-budget item.

From what I've heard, the talk is of a 2022 start date and a 2030 completion date (ugh...I'm going to blame the same planning rules that require the state to decide on new stoplights several years out for this timetable), but I have no idea what the "real" plan is (i.e. is the plan for 90 MPH? 110? 125? 150? What about the alignment...existing RF&P? Something slightly straightened? Something brand new a bit to the east?)...and apparently the project is holding the support of one of the more libertarian members of the House of Delegates here. So, like I said, anybody know more (such as what VA's HSR application listed)?

As an addendum, it sounds like the SEHSR stuff is still on course for the most part.

(And yes, this is in the Amtrak forum on purpose...the only talk of anything 150 MPH or faster in VA that I've ever seen was that wacky Richmond-Newport News project, so I'm skeptical that there's suddenly a major plan to run a 150 MPH train from DC to Richmond or something like that. Mind you, I think it's one of the better markets for it...the line is basically in the black from what I can tell...but I'm still skeptical of it.)


Anderson -

If I'm reading the materials at these links correctly, this is being analyzed as we write. The DPRT website included a link to a PPT presentation that was part of the quarterly meeting of the NC/VA HSR compact that met. The NC/VA HSR compact page is here. As I understand it, the ROD for the EIS on the portion to Hampton Roads is imminent and public hearings for the main stem (RVR to Charlotte) Tier II EIS were held in 2010. The ROD for segment that has been signed. For the WAS to RVR section, the Tier I EIS was done in 2002 and according to this press release from DOT the Tier II EIS and engineering studies was funded in 2011.

Is the this you were looking at?

Blue skies

BTW - Nice pictures of the NFK station progress in the PPT presentation given 1/6/12 at the VA/NC HSR compact meeting.

#3 Anderson

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:27 PM

Ok, it looks like there was material added since my last look-through. I'll go ahead and say that the most important thing on that map, IMHO, is probably that the CLT-ATL line is actually beginning its process as well. Until recently, that had just gotten a passing feasibility study.

By the way, calling the HRBT experience "character-building" is a pretty good description.
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#4 afigg

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:01 PM

If I'm reading the materials at these links correctly, this is being analyzed as we write. The DPRT website included a link to a PPT presentation that was part of the quarterly meeting of the NC/VA HSR compact that met. The NC/VA HSR compact page is here. As I understand it, the ROD for the EIS on the portion to Hampton Roads is imminent and public hearings for the main stem (RVR to Charlotte) Tier II EIS were held in 2010. The ROD for segment that has been signed. For the WAS to RVR section, the Tier I EIS was done in 2002 and according to this press release from DOT the Tier II EIS and engineering studies was funded in 2011.

Thanks for the links. Useful updates on the status of the studies and work for the SE HSR and related VA corridors. Those viewgraphs don't list the recent obligation of $2.9 million to DC for the preliminary engineering and NEPA for the replacement of the Long Bridge across the Potomac River. I gather the Long Bridge replacement study covers the route from exit of the First Avenue tunnel across the river to the point in Arlington where the VA funded Tier II EIS study picks up. So the entire route from where the Amtrak owned tracks to south of Richmond is now covered by enough funds for extensive Tier II engineering studies.

What I am struck by is the gap in ambition between the plans for the two segments. The mostly S-line route for the Richmond - Petersburg -Raleigh calls for complete grade separation, 110 mph tracks with curve reduction, room left for a dedicated 2 track line, and designed for future electrification & higher speeds. The DC to Richmond corridor plans are for a 3rd track, shared with a busy freight line, and up to 90 mph speeds. The DC to Richmond segment won't support upgrades to electrified HSR without a new line or major separation work. But the political and public support does not appear to be there for a more aggressive development of a separate passenger line from DC to Richmond Main Street Station.

The Long Bridge replacement and/or refurb will be an expensive project. Got to get it right the first time. To provide a connection point south of Alexandria station for a future electrified HSR line, they should build 4 tracks total across the Potomac. Two on a new (mostly) passenger train bridge for VRE & Amtrak next to the Long Bridge and a rebuilt/replaced 2 track bridge where the Long Bridge is for CSX freight use. Have 2 passenger tracks and 2 freight tracks running down through Alexandria station with separated operations in normal use. My understanding is that the plan is for 4 tracks in the Arlington to Alexandria segment already. Provide crossovers so CSX can use the new 2 track bridge across the Potomac while the Long Bridge is being rebuilt or replaced and as back-up connections when tracks are taken out for repair, but in day to day operation the freights and passenger trains don't mix. With dedicated passenger tracks from WAS to south of Alexandria station which can be electrified, they can be used as a launching point for a future HSR line running to Richmond, over whatever combination of route segments are used to get there.

#5 jis

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 09:48 PM

As far as I can tell, at least for the moment the plan seems to be 4 tracks from RO to AF, and 3 tracks south of AF initially to Fredericksburg and eventually to Richmond. There is enough space in most places to put in a 4th track to Fredericksburg but that will require considerable additional bridgework and some land acquisition too possibly.

As George has explained many times the RF&P alignment is unlikely to host any HSR. 90 is going to be about the max. That is not going to preclude its electrification though at an appropriate point in time.

The other critical expensive project will be the Acca bypass for passenger trains to get from Staples Mill to Main Street station in Richmond. At one point some gave a thought to using the Doswell sub for avoiding Acca to get to Main Street, but that is so twisty that it was deemed quite unsuitable for even somewhat higher speed passenger rail.

#6 Anderson

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 12:18 AM

As far as I can tell, at least for the moment the plan seems to be 4 tracks from RO to AF, and 3 tracks south of AF initially to Fredericksburg and eventually to Richmond. There is enough space in most places to put in a 4th track to Fredericksburg but that will require considerable additional bridgework and some land acquisition too possibly.

As George has explained many times the RF&P alignment is unlikely to host any HSR. 90 is going to be about the max. That is not going to preclude its electrification though at an appropriate point in time.

The other critical expensive project will be the Acca bypass for passenger trains to get from Staples Mill to Main Street station in Richmond. At one point some gave a thought to using the Doswell sub for avoiding Acca to get to Main Street, but that is so twisty that it was deemed quite unsuitable for even somewhat higher speed passenger rail.


Well, there seems to be no push for electrification south of DC. As to the HSR stuff, what is particularly interesting is that while RVR-CLT got a lot of discussion, in the Tier I report there seemed to be little or no improvement expected WAS-RVR. South of RVR, the discussion is almost exclusively diesel (with the exception of some random woolgathering down in Georgia), while further north this is the first mention I've seen of anything other than capacity upgrades.

I'm wondering...would $1.8 billion or so (what was applied for under Kaine) be enough to make any serious improvements on the 90 MPH limit? Per the studies done in the 90s, there was a suggestion that the use of tilt trains or increased superelevation might act as a workaround to the speed limits. Also, seeing as the 79 MPH speed limit trip time clocks in somewhere between 120-130 minutes WAS-RVR, what would likely be needed to generate a 97-minute or 90-minute trip time (as was in the plans from then)?
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