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Southeast High Speed Rail progresses plans


Despite continuing questions regarding what, if any, role Amtrak might have in the development of high-speed rail corridors, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett and Virginia Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement March 21 announced the preferred route for Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.

The high-speed route would stretch from Washington, D.C., to Richmond and South Hill, Va., and Henderson, Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte, N.C., with a connection to Winston-Salem.

In late January, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) awarded HDR Inc. a three-year, on-call general engineering contract with primary emphasis on plan development and corresponding engineering to implement high-speed rail.

Next, DRPT must complete a Final Environmental Impact Statement and submit it to U.S. Department of Transportation, state and local agencies, and the public for review. Following satisfactory review, USDOT would approve the route and the second study phase would begin.

In the second phase, state DOTs would more-closely examine track location impacts and determine potential station improvements. The studies would then be used to acquire construction permits.

But Richmond’s downtown station already is being renovated through local efforts to return train service to the downtown area; Amtrak moved out of the station in the late 1970s and two trains that go to Newport News, Va., currently go right past the station. DRPT Passenger Project Manager Alan Tobias expects a December 2002 grand opening.

"With additional improvement to the rail infrastructure, we could bring the other trains down," says Tobias, adding that HDR currently is seeking consensus on the stakeholders’ needs, and expects to conclude that project at the end of April.

But completing work to raise Southeast Corridor trains to 110 mph depends on securing federal funds. If Congress were to approve legislation providing dedicated funds for high-speed-rail corridor development, the Washington-to-Charlotte segment could be completed in 2010, then eventually extended to Atlanta and Macon, Ga., Columbia, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/25/2002