On high-speed train projects from Montreal to New York and San Francisco to San Diego

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Two articles came out today on high-speed trains in North America so I'll include them in the same post. The first one is here from La Press, on a high-speed train from Montreal to New York. As you can see from the map on the right it isn't that great a distance, and the idea seems to get brought up quite a bit in the French Canadian press.

The Charest government is now ready to juggle two high-speed train megaprojects: the Quebec-Windsor corridor and the Montreal-New York corridor.

The project to construct a high-speed railway between Quebec and New York State is active now after being put aside for a quarter of a century.

On Wednesday, Premier Jean Charest looked enthusiastic at the idea of bringing back this project for the nth time, looking very confident that it would be able to be completed this time.

In the past, exorbitant costs and natural obstacles had forced governments to abandon or defer the project.

But the current condition according to Premier Charest could not be better for pushing forward a project of this magnitude.

He did not even exclude the possibility of promoting a TGV-velocity train, even faster and more costly than a high-speed train with a speed of 240 km/h, to go between Montreal and New York.

(Then a bit on the 800 billion dollar US infrastructure package, skipping ahead a bit...)

In 2004, a pre-feasibility study by the New York State Department of Transportation and Transport Québec fixed the price of the project at $4 billion USD just for the construction of the railway - 613 km in total, 77 of which would be in Quebec. The Americans would therefore pay for the majority of the bill, therefore at least $4 billion without even the purchase of the trains. If the project were to go ahead, passengers would take the train from Montreal to New York in just 4 hours, compared to 10 hours now.

The portion from Montreal to Albany would be relatively easy to carry out, but the difficult part from a technical point of view would be from Albany to New York, which goes through the Adirondack Mountains.
So it looks like for the project to go through the American side would need a bit sweeter of a deal, because New York likely isn't desperate to pay for the majority of a railway simply to connect to Montreal. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Charest government is going after both lines at the same time, because a high-speed train to Montreal, through the capital Ottawa and then to Toronto and down into Windsor (just across the bay from Detroit) would be a lot more appealing of a network to connect to than Montreal alone.

The other piece of news is in English and can be read here - it's about California asking the federal government for $4.7 billion for its high-speed rail project, which would connect San Francisco to San Diego, and thus Los Angeles in between as well. Don't forget that Californians also voted for almost $10 billion in bonds in November to pay for high-speed rail as well.

For a lot of good basic information on proposed high-speed rail in California, see this page.

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