Coordinated plans for Southeastern High Speed Rail

President Obama announced plans today for nine regional high speed rail lines in the US. State transportation authorities have been working on plans regionally with the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration and with private railroad companies like NS.

The proposed line running from DC to Miami is called the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.  Georgian and North Carolina appear to be the most active. South Carolina doesn’t have any state reports available on the relevant wikipedia page.
You can get an idea of what the high speed rail connections through SC would look like from the US Department of Transportations’ Southeast Corridor project website. I’ve excerpted parts of the January 8, 2009 project report which discuss the proposed high speed rail extension from Charlotte to Atlanta.  The reports themselves have useful pictures, cost estimates, formulas for computing ridership and profitability and many other things you probably don’t know.

Southeast High Speed Rail website:

SEHSR 2009 report: Evaluation of High-Speed Rail Options in the Macon-Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte Rail Corridor
Executive summary:
Full report:

Extracts follow the jump.

2.3 Alignment and Routing:
The alignment and routing alternatives for Southeast High-Speed Rail Charlotte to Macon corridor would have to be investigated in detail as part of subsequent studies. This exposition lays out some of the ground rules that will be used to match train technologies to feasible, least cost routes. The major tradeoff is between train speed and the cost (and availability) of right-of-way that is straight enough to support that train speed. The cost of ROW [Right Of Way], even for the lowest-level improvement (reconstruction to speeds of 79-100 mph) will entail construction costs approaching $2,000,000/mile, plus the cost of new train control systems. Developmental costs include: right-of-way acquisition, track and supporting structures, train control, electrification, stations and maintenance facilities.Potential impacts on environmentally or historically sensitive areas and relocation of housing and other facilities are also major differential considerations.


4.3.2 Gastonia, North Carolina to Greenville, South Carolina From Gastonia, the proposed alignment follows I-85 and then veers off to follow, in general the existing freight ROW [Right Of Way]. The freight alignment is relatively straight and eventually parallels route 29. There are several deviations to avoid cities and villages. ROW becomes tighter in Spartanburg and consideration must be given to improvements to Spartanburg station. Continuing southwest, the corridor passes north of the Greenville Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), a station stop in cases 1 and 6. As in the rest of the corridor, there are major deviations from the railroad alignment to remove excessive curvature. There are no significant problems arriving at Greenville station from the north. There are some industrial areas where ROW will be tight and considerable construction which may complicate ROW acquisition in the near future.

Greenville station is close to downtown; but in a rundown area in need of urban renewal. The station itself is open limited hours and offers minimal amenities to potential travelers.

4.3.3 Greenville, South Carolina to Gainesville, Georgia

Several alignments were postulated in this area depending on the station alternatives. The existing freight alignment is not straight enough to tolerate even 90 mph service. There are many stream crossings and several major structures across the Tugalu River will be costly. An alternative corridor from Spartanburg to Greenville was considered along I-85. This alignment would be very convenient for Spartanburg, but would require building a new station at Greenville, well south of the city. It would not be convenient to downtown and, depending on the next station, Clemson, Gainesville or Atlanta, would require extensive land taking. Some opposition from Greenville citizens to moving the station has already surfaced.
South of the existing Greenville station, there appears to be sufficient corridor width to insert double, high-speed track (see Figure 4-5), although structures are very old and many may need to be completely replaced due to potential vibration damage from highspeed service.


The major distinguishing characteristic of the scenarios will most likely be that each describes a different system concept (alignment and technology). The technology options defined in the FRA’s CFS, i.e., IHSR with varying top speeds and new HSR, will be selected. For reasons of cost and connectivity with existing plans for the routes north of Charlotte, this study will only seek conventional modes of HSR transportation.

This study will evaluate the development and operating costs and potential passenger ridership associated with providing high-speed rail (HSR) service to the Macon, Atlanta, Greenville/Spartanburg, and Charlotte corridor. The train service to be studied for this corridor will have top speeds that are significantly faster than existing Amtrak service (with maximum speeds of 79 mph), might follow existing rail routes or employ a new straighter right-of-way, would likely have links at the end-point cities to connecting rail and air services, and would possibly incorporate through–train services to other noncorridor rail-served cities.
The study assessment will be based on a new business model concept for HSR that was developed by the Southeastern Economic Alliance in its recent report. This concept consists of a public-private partnership for rail development in this corridor where Government agencies invest in capital construction and maintenance of HSR infrastructure and a private, non-subsidized operator provides for train operations.

Further south, the existing railroad traverses several small towns on its way to Clemson.Typically, the tracks bisect the town (see Figure 4-6) and present a safety and an access problem.


An alignment that by-passes both Clemson, South Carolina and Toccoa, Georgia by following I-85 would require that the passenger line split off and head due west from I-85. A great deal of this land is free of structures or homes and ROW may be relatively inexpensive to secure. There is a significant raise in elevation between Toccoa and Gainesville, which may result in additional construction costs.


Posted on April 16, 2009, in News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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