Federal Railroad Administration Proposes New Midwest Rail Network

If built, regional high-speed rail networks could provide an alternative to uncomfortable air travel and prevent travelers from becoming stranded at airports during extreme weather.

January 17, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


A high-speed rail network could be the solution to the vast disruptions in travel caused by canceled flights and poor weather every year, argues Owen Pickford. A proposal from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) shows what a hub-and-spoke Midwest rail network could look like. According to Pickford, "Much of it is not really a high-speed rail network, more like 'higher' speed. Only on 'Core Express' corridors will train speeds exceed 125 mph, while the 'Regional' sections will be in the 90 mph to 125 mph range under the FRA plan." Late last year, Amtrak's St. Louis-to-Chicago trains started reaching top speeds of 90 miles per hour, with an ultimate goal of traveling at 110 miles per hour.

True high-speed rail, Pickford argues, would make trips across the Midwest faster and more climate-friendly while reducing operating costs and bringing economic benefits to cities without adequate air service. Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, the proposed Cascadia Rail system would have provided an alternate transportation option for travelers from Sea-Tac Airport during recent winter storms. Comprehensive rail systems could also put pressure on airlines and reduce their lobbying power, forcing them to provide better service.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022 in The Urbanist

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