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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

California, Tennessee/Georgia high-speed proponents take a lesson from Asian operators

As transportation groups throughout the U.S. consider ways to implement high-speed train service, some are turning to their overseas counterparts to learn the ins and outs of launching and operating a high-speed rail system and rally support for high-speed service in the United States.

Yesterday, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) held a seminar on Japan’s “Shrinkansen” to provide information to public officials, policy makers and the public about the economic and environmental benefits of a high-speed rail system.

Presentations were given by Assistant Vice Minister for International Affairs Keiji Fukumoto of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and Adviser to the President Toshiji Takatsu of Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency. They provided a history of the high-speed train, benefits to the Japanese economy and positive impacts on the environment.

Shrinkansen opened in 1964, making Japan the first country to build dedicated rail lines for high-speed trains. Today, trains operate at speeds of more than 185 mph.

Since 1996, CHSRA has been planning, designing and advocating for a 700-mile, statewide high-speed rail system. The state’s 2007-08 budget includes $20.7 million to continue project implementation, including preparation of a project financial plan, management activities, identification of rights of way acquisitions, and project design and related environmental studies. However, state bond funding still must be authorized by voters. The $10 billion measure is expected to appear on the November 2008 ballot.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Tennessee and Georgia transportation leaders recently traveled to Shanghai, China, to see firsthand how the city handles planning, transportation and environmental challenges. The group included Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Chief Executive Officer Mike Landguth, Georgia Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, National Safe Skies Alliance CEO Tom Jensen, the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority’s Ron Sweeny and Enterprise Center Special Projects Director Joe Ferguson.

The group observed Shanghai’s magnetic levitation (maglev) system, which operates 19 miles between Shanhai’s Pudong International Airport and the financial district. Opened in 2003, the line’s trains run at top speeds of 270 mph, and the system generates enough revenue to cover its operating costs.

Tennessee non-profit economic development group the Enterprise Center, along with consultants ARCADIS U.S. Inc. and Commonwealth Research Associates L.L.C., have been working on a feasibility study for a maglev system operating between Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn. The segment is part of a larger plan to connect the cities with  Atlanta.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/31/2008