Today I joined a “Brown Bag Lunch” Zoom meeting with the US High Speed Rail Alliance lead by Rick Harnish. Mr. Harnish is very knowledgeable about railroad development and he always leads an interesting discussion.
Today we received a report on California High Speed Rail. This is an ongoing project that started in 2008. Since that time the CHSR Project has been a learning lab for building out new rail technology in the United States. Our elected officials and contractors had almost no idea how to plan for or think about HSR! It is analogous to exercise. We have let our railroad muscles seriously atrophy. Now we are back in the gym so to speak.
This is a very good thing for us in Northwest Arkansas. I find that there is a synergy to all these projects. Not just in California, but Brightline’s various projects, the Texas Central HSRail, Cascadia Rail, and all the others. Even the work on building out a shared railroad from St. Louis MO to Chicago IL that runs at 110 mph is something that aids ORBTS and the cause of passenger rail in Arkansas. That’s because whether we build up a regional rail system in NWA or build out a state wide system as many of us want to do, we can learn many lessons from all these projects. I want to do both btw. Momentum flows from one project to another. This is good for everyone.
During the Brown Bag Lunch I asked why the CHSR Project costs are so high. Mr. Harnish didn’t have an answer. But he suspects that it has to do with not doing enough planning at the beginning of the project. As I look at mass transportation projects around the county, I can see how this is true. We need to plan for regional rail in NWA even if we don’t think we “need it now”. We need to plan for hourly trains or we won’t have them. It’s as simply as that. And it will bring costs down when we do build our own projects.
Even the St Louis to Chicago 110 mph shared use line gives us a considerable insight. Our national railroad system is adequate, it gets the job done. As long as that job is slow moving freight trains. If we want more efficiency in the system. If we want to move people quickly, cheaply, and cut emissions at the same time, we need to do serious work on our railways. We must learn more, organize more, do more. We have to start to pay attention to local and statewide elections and who are are putting into office. City councilmen and county judges matter have no doubt about it.
Here is a link to a page that has the graphics Rick Harnish used today. This will give you an idea of what we covered today.
There were two actionable items that came out of today’s meeting. One is covered in the link above. The California Legislature is going to vote soon on releasing funds to finish sections of the CHSR Project. We must get this project finished. If we do this opens the way for many other projects including those here in Arkansas. And America will finally have a 220 mph passenger train. I want to ride it. Here is a link to a petition to the California Legislature to release funds for CHSR. The funding is already approved by the voters. We must all work to get our friends in Cali to sign this petition.
The second action item is the opposition to the Texas Central Railway. I propose we contact our Texas friends and ask them to contact their state representatives and state senators to move this project forward. Here is a link to TexasCentral.com so you can learn more about what they are doing.