• NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure Plan

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by TomNelligan
 
If the New Haven RR had been able to do that sort of systematic curve reduction back in the early 20th century, we'd certainly have a faster Shore Line today, but as Mr. Norman points out in the current economic and political climate the chance of any significant right-of-way relocation in populated areas is nil. Even if the money was available, the people whose property was being taken would be able to tie it up in court forever. If you want an example of what rich NIMBYs are capable of, read up on the Cape Wind offshore wind power project, which is now well into its second decade of obstructionist lawsuits. And that's miles offshore rather than in their backyards.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
This Google photo is simply indicative of the power of the NIMBY faction that I had occasion to observe first hand:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=cos+cob+c ... ,,0,0&z=14

First, let it be noted that a one-time railroad facility is shown. Note the waterfall on the Mianus River and then note the brick building to its left. That was once a pumping station owned by the New Haven that supplied water needed for the boilers of the power generating station on the West Side of the Mianus.

Also note the construction equipment parked on a road in front of that building; that was the original alignment of US1 when I was kid.

Now "twirl" the photo to the Left (West) and note the White building. That building was right in the path of the intended alignment when a new bridge was build over the Mianus during the '60's. However, the building owner refused to sell and the Highway Department had no choice but to locate the alignment on its existing path - and condemn even more property in the process.

Progress? uh, more likely the power of the affluent at work.

Also, how about reviewing Kelo v. New London, a US Supreme Court decision, at any of the law sites; allow them to describe the facts of the case. i think it was bad law, but then I'm not Aretha (whoops, a Supreme) in this life - in fact not even a lawyer.

All told, Mr. 2060 (New Haven FL-9's were 2000-2059), accept the Corridor ROW as it exists.
  by NH2060
 
by Gilbert B Norman » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:33 am

I'd like to be first responder to what I will presume is a bona fide inquiry made by a young railfan.
Right you are! Though idk if 21 still counts as "young" for me :-p
There has been much discussion regarding the Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) syndrome at the forum; having grown up residing in Fairfield County, I know first hand the consternation that any proposal for the condemnation of private property will arouse. I can recall during the early 1950's how each proposed routing of "The Thruway' which became I-95 after tolls "paid for it" (surprise; somebody kept their word on that point). I can recall as a kid residing in Cos Cob at the time, my Mother and Father have heated "worried whispers" (the stuff kids weren't supposed to hear) to the effect of 'they'll put it right over the top of our house" (it is in fact some two miles away from 11 Mead Ave). I heard 'second hand' stories when "The Parkway' was built through 'Back Greenwich' and that pitted one wealthy neighbor against another - and that was back in the day when Robert Moses could part with concrete any locality he chose as if it were the Red Sea.
Mm I'll admit I knew it'd be a long shot of there being no opposition to any shift in the ROW. And funny you mention the Thruway and the Merrit as my mom's first house was located LITERALLY right next to the southbound side of 95 in Greenwich (and this was in the 1970s so by then the traffic had only gotten worse). I would have rather lived next to the Montauk Branch with those ground-shaking late night trains..
Unfair it may be, the power of the NIMBY's rises exponentially with the affluence of the affected region - need more be said about Southern Connecticut on that point?
Guess we can kiss Amtrak's plan of routing the new HSR line to Boston through New Rochelle and Westchester goodbye then...
by TomNelligan » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:47 am

If the New Haven RR had been able to do that sort of systematic curve reduction back in the early 20th century, we'd certainly have a faster Shore Line today, but as Mr. Norman points out in the current economic and political climate the chance of any significant right-of-way relocation in populated areas is nil. Even if the money was available, the people whose property was being taken would be able to tie it up in court forever.
I remember a History Channel episode ("Built For Speed" if anyone remembers it) in which Clifford Black of Amtrak said pretty much the same thing (though that seems to be exactly what they're going to try to do now). It's actually a shame that the Shore Line wasn't built when air travel and cars were more popular (I know it's real wishful thinking, but still). Even though the steam locomotive technology around even during WWII couldn't allow the speeds that the Acela offers, the condition of the track could have allowed the potential for such speeds. Take the Lackawanna Cut-Off for example. A 100mph straight shot through NJ? The DL&W were way ahead of their time there ;-)
by Gilbert B Norman » Mon Nov 21, 2011 12:11 pm

This Google photo is simply indicative of the power of the NIMBY faction that I had occasion to observe first hand:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=cos+cob+c ... ,,0,0&z=14

First, let it be noted that a one-time railroad facility is shown. Note the waterfall on the Mianus River and then note the brick building to its left. That was once a pumping station owned by the New Haven that supplied water needed for the boilers of the power generating station on the West Side of the Mianus.
Interesting you point that out. I used to live right a few blocks away that site when I was younger and passed it on the way to school every day and it took a while for me to figure out the "N.Y.N.H.& H." initials :-P I believe it's being turned into a restaurant IIRC.
Now "twirl" the photo to the Left (West) and note the White building. That building was right in the path of the intended alignment when a new bridge was build over the Mianus during the '60's. However, the building owner refused to sell and the Highway Department had no choice but to locate the alignment on its existing path - and condemn even more property in the process.
As bad as the current alignment was/is (or the fact that the highway got built and over time caused the traffic jams we see today) I can't imagine what Riverside would have looked like had the original plan gone through...
All told, Mr. 2060 (New Haven FL-9's were 2000-2059)
Haha yes that was completely intentional. I remember reading a book on the New Haven Division years back which stated that the RR "would have bought a few more [of the FL-9s] had it not run out of cash". So I guess you can say this is my nod to that never placed order :-P
  by NellieBly
 
Let me add a bit to Mr. Norman's (as always) informative post. The deficiencies of the Shore Line alignment were known back in the 1960s when the High Speed Ground Transportation Demonstration Program was set up in the Commerce Department (USDOT didn't exist until 1967). I have seen the original aerial surveys for the BOS-NYG route. The plan was to follow the former New Haven "Air Line" alignment from New Haven through Putnam, CT and Blackstone, MA, and on into Boston via Franklin. This route misses Providence, but has two advantages:

1) it's straight
2) there are no movable bridges

Unfortunately, the chief supporter of high speed rail at the time was Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, so it was made very clear that the chosen route would have to run via Providence. Thus, DOT bought the UA Turbotrain and actually did operate a 3:35 schedule between Back Bay and Grand Central in the late 1960s. I was lucky enough to ride "The Turblet", as I called it, in 1970. Sitting behind the engineer in the front dome, I found out why the Shore Line will never be a high speed railroad. I have since had a couple of head-end rides on Acela Expresses, and between Kingston, RI and Old Saybrook, CT there is hardly any place with a speed limit above 80, and lots of restrictions (including 25 MPH through New London). It isn't until west of Old Saybrook that you get into some fairly fast running.

Amtrak's proposed 220 MPH route will follow much the same alignment as those original aerial surveys. Until then, there's nothing that can be done to speed up the Shore Line any more than it already is.
  by penncenter
 
Is there REAL demand for HSR between NY and Boston, or any point in between??? Leave everything north of NY the way it is. If the inhabitants along the way don't want it, and will make it prohibitively expensive to build anyway, then let them have their current service. Or don't go through those wealthy areas. Go through more rural areas of CT. Its less obstructive---and cheaper. No ridership in those areas to justify it? Then don't build it at all. Boston is not NY or DC, so why the push to include it in any plans anyway? It is a small city. Even without the NIMBY probelms in CT, why spend all that money to connect Boston to NY? Its just not that important of a city to get the disproportionate funding it would take to make the service happen. It would never come close to making money.

HSR should be concentrated in densely populated areas. Any HSR investment should focus on the NY to DC route. The trick is to make it competitive with air travel. Connecting finance and govt centers---and being able to do it quickly---that is something to strive for. But DC to Bos? No way. Airline shuttles cover that and do it well. Boston is lucky to even be in the conversation. If you travel by Acela from Bos to DC, your time is not that in demand, because you couldn't get away with being on a train---and out of pocket---for 6 1/2 hours. 2 hours is a magic number for a train trip. You need to be able to do something significant as opposed to taking a flight. Start with something that will work, and that can make money, and that is NY-DC. Everything else is just folly.
  by NH2060
 
by NellieBly » Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:42 pm

Let me add a bit to Mr. Norman's (as always) informative post. The deficiencies of the Shore Line alignment were known back in the 1960s when the High Speed Ground Transportation Demonstration Program was set up in the Commerce Department (USDOT didn't exist until 1967). I have seen the original aerial surveys for the BOS-NYG route. The plan was to follow the former New Haven "Air Line" alignment from New Haven through Putnam, CT and Blackstone, MA, and on into Boston via Franklin. This route misses Providence, but has two advantages:

1) it's straight
2) there are no movable bridges
Actually, there is 1 such bridge at Middletown, but it can either be replaced with a newer, more reliable span, or a higher level fixed span.

As for Providence it would be pointless to build a new route that didn't serve the city. It's not NY or Boston, but it's still a city in every sense of the word. If there really is no way to build a new HSR ROW without having to deal with NIMBY hoopla then I'd say let the future enhanced Shore Line service handle that market.
The Air Line would be a top candidate, but given that the proposed alignment more or less follows I-84, that might deem it more worth building (even though IMO the whole purpose of this newer ROW is to primarily serve New York and Boston travelers with cities like Hartford and Waterbury as the runners up.)
I have since had a couple of head-end rides on Acela Expresses, and between Kingston, RI and Old Saybrook, CT there is hardly any place with a speed limit above 80, and lots of restrictions (including 25 MPH through New London). It isn't until west of Old Saybrook that you get into some fairly fast running.
Mm agreed. The stretch through Guilford, Madison, and Clinton in particular is good for 100-110mph. The speedometer app on my iPhone whilst riding the Regional to Boston backs that up :-D The New London trackage is just flat out embarrassing speed-wise. I'd say build a new, straighter approach to the station from the west and a new bridge to the east, therefore straightening the ROW, buuuuut of course that'll never happen for various reasons (not in my lifetime at least).
by penncenter » Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:54 pm

Is there REAL demand for HSR between NY and Boston, or any point in between???
You better believe there is. Have you ever ridden on a train coming out of/going to Boston? Not all of those passengers are coming from/getting off at stops like Mystic, Bridgeport, or Westerly. Just look at the Acela Express service. It serves ONLY the major stops and they're 1) full or near full 2) the bread and butter of the NEC and 3) tech/tilt/speed problems aside, one of the greatest trains to ride. People WANT to ride it, even with the high ticket prices. And soon even the Regional trains will get equipped with rolling stock just like the Acelas (coach, cafe, cab cars) that will be pulled by even more powerful locomotives (ACS-64).
Boston is not NY or DC, so why the push to include it in any plans anyway? It is a small city.
Be that as it may (I myself love Boston for its small size), it's still a vibrant center of commerce, education, arts, sports, etc. It was most recently named the 3rd hottest job market in the US (see link: http://www.boston.com/business/ticker/2 ... ton_1.html) behind only DC itself. NY didn't even make the list. Now the accuracy of those numbers aside, Boston is not only a major "small" city, but it's also the gateway to the rest of New England (and for those coming into Logan from overseas, etc. , New England as a whole). Heck, that's why construction of the North-South Rail Link ought to start as soon as someone realizes that it's worth the investment. It's not just Washington-Boston that matters anymore. Cities like Richmond, VA and Portland, ME are slowly, but surely becoming part of the BosWash Megalopolis.
  by Mcoov
 
Boston is not NY or DC, so why the push to include it in any plans anyway? It is a small city.
By no means is Boston a "small" city. Boston is arguably the nation's center for the educational and medical fields, and probably has one of the largest student populations in the country. To leave Boston out would be like ignoring San Diego.
  by afiggatt
 
penncenter wrote:Is there REAL demand for HSR between NY and Boston, or any point in between??? Leave everything north of NY the way it is. If the inhabitants along the way don't want it, and will make it prohibitively expensive to build anyway, then let them have their current service. Or don't go through those wealthy areas. Go through more rural areas of CT. Its less obstructive---and cheaper. No ridership in those areas to justify it? Then don't build it at all. Boston is not NY or DC, so why the push to include it in any plans anyway? It is a small city. Even without the NIMBY probelms in CT, why spend all that money to connect Boston to NY? Its just not that important of a city to get the disproportionate funding it would take to make the service happen. It would never come close to making money.
The Boston region is the 10th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the US with a population of 4.5 million. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_U ... ical_Areas. If you leave it out of HSR consideration, you might as well as skip San Francisco, Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, St. Louis which all have smaller MSA populations. Besides being a center of technology, finance, education, and just plain ole wealth, Boston also has an extensive transit system which the NEC connects to and any Next Gen NEC HSR will connect to.

As for demand, if the Acela could go from BOS to NYP in 3 hours or less and if the current 39 trains a day limit was fixed, Amtrak would take the lion's share of the air-rail Boston to NYC market quite handily. One geographical advantage is that Back Bay and Rt. 128 are on the way to NYP and hence have shorter running times, while business travelers starting out from the Rt. 128 corridor have to drive east to Logan airport (through traffic). I have additional comments on what can be done with the NYP to Westerly RI segment, but I'll leave them for later.
Last edited by afiggatt on Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by penncenter
 
Students won't support the cost of high speed service, and Logan as a link is questionable. This thread was talking about the NIMBY issues in CT, and the prohibitive hassles and costs. I am not saying cut out service to Boston, I am saying the need for HSR investment will not be justified. I would say San Diego is not important for HSR as well. Its not just Boston, its whats between Boston and NY, and that isn't commerce.
  by Suburban Station
 
right now the fastest trip from philly to boston is 4h50 min or so, knock an hour off that trip and shuttle service will evaporate and, if priced correctly, it will eat into car travel. in some ways, there's more to be gained on the boston route from a new ROW than in the south end where curve straightening and four tracks might solve enough problems.
  by Station Aficionado
 
Beside the Boston MSA figure noted by Mr. Figgatt, Boston CSA (Combined Statistical Area--basically Providence to Manchester, NH) is 7.6 million. The combined ridership of BOS, BBY & 128 in FY'11 was 2.06 million. There are sound reasons to believe that major improvements to the NYP-BOS route are not currently feasible, but Boston being too small is surely not one of them. As for the suggestions that there is no commerce in the area between NY and Boston or that the area is not densely populated, well, I guess it was some other CT and RI where I spent time this summer.
  by Greg Moore
 
I'd also argue to an extent asking if there is a market for HSR between Boston and NYP (and points south) is sort of like asking if there is enough market to justify building the first bridge across the Mississippi. "Sure, we know ferry traffic, but the existing ferry traffic won't ever pay for a bridge." This of course ignores the fact that once a bridge is built, traffic will almost certainly go up.
  by SouthernRailway
 
3 thoughts:

(1) Wasn't the Acela all set to do NYP-BOS in 3 hours...but some kind of design flaw (maybe it's too wide?) prevents it from fully tilting around curves, which causes it to run at lower speeds than otherwise? So the next generation of Acelas could save time by being better designed.

(2) Isn't Metro-North doing some type of catenary upgrades along the New Haven Line, and once that's done, the Acela will not be limited to 90 mph between NYC and New Haven? That will also save time.

(3) North/east of New Haven, there is a long strip through generally unpopulated areas. The train seems to move quickly along that stretch, but surely a straighter line could be built there if anywhere.
  by hi55us
 
Station Aficionado wrote:Beside the Boston MSA figure noted by Mr. Figgatt, Boston CSA (Combined Statistical Area--basically Providence to Manchester, NH) is 7.6 million. The combined ridership of BOS, BBY & 128 in FY'11 was 2.06 million. There are sound reasons to believe that major improvements to the NYP-BOS route are not currently feasible, but Boston being too small is surely not one of them. As for the suggestions that there is no commerce in the area between NY and Boston or that the area is not densely populated, well, I guess it was some other CT and RI where I spent time this summer.
I frequently travel NYP-BOS and it seems lots of students at Yale (in New Haven) and Brown (in Providence) use the train, this is in addition to University of RI students at Kingston on regional trains.
  by afiggatt
 
SouthernRailway wrote:(1) Wasn't the Acela all set to do NYP-BOS in 3 hours...but some kind of design flaw (maybe it's too wide?) prevents it from fully tilting around curves, which causes it to run at lower speeds than otherwise? So the next generation of Acelas could save time by being better designed.
The goal in the 1994 NEC improvement plan was 3 hours NYP-BOS which specified a list of projects. However, because of funding cuts and, in some cases, local opposition, many of those projects were never done. Bridge replacement projects were postponed, the flyover tracks at New Rochelle, some grade crossings in eastern CT were not closed, and so on. The catenary replacement for the New Haven line became a multi-decade project. The inability to tilt on the New Haven line because of the tight spacing of the tracks is not a major trip time consideration.

Some of the long delayed projects between NYP and BOS are now being done: Niantic Bridge replacement, 2 other bridges in eastern CT were replaced earlier this month. The HSIPR grants for the Harold Interlocking bypass and Kingston Station 3rd track & high level platforms will help reduce congestion. However, the goal is the 2010 NEC Infrastructure Master Plan was for a 3:08 BOS-NYP trip time by 2030, so Amtrak has seemingly given up on getting to 3:00 on the current NEC.

Amtrak has stated they plan to release an updated NEC vision plan before the end of 2011, which from their news release may discuss improvements to the current corridor as well as the 220 mph Next Gen NEC proposals.
SouthernRailway wrote: (2) Isn't Metro-North doing some type of catenary upgrades along the New Haven Line, and once that's done, the Acela will not be limited to 90 mph between NYC and New Haven? That will also save time.
Amtrak would be happy if they could increase speeds to 90 mph on the New Haven line in CT from the current 70 or so max. Yes, CT DOT and Metro-North are replacing the catenary in CT with constant tension, started in the early 1990s and which is now scheduled to be completed in 2015. When the catenary and signal upgrades are in place, Amtrak should reduce trip times on the New Haven line by 2015, but not that much. The Acela NYP-BOS trip times have been slowed to 3:40 in the past year because because of the double tracking for a bridge replacement project near Bridgeport. Think that project has another year to go.
SouthernRailway wrote: (3) North/east of New Haven, there is a long strip through generally unpopulated areas. The train seems to move quickly along that stretch, but surely a straighter line could be built there if anywhere.
I would hardly call the coastal regions of eastern CT "generally unpopulated". A mix of rural, suburban, and towns, yes, but not lightly populated. There are some possible ROW realignments by moving the ROW over to follow I-95 for a segment or 2, but any such plan will cost serious bucks and woukd have to take some private property. The remaining major project for the eastern CT section is to replace the CT River bridge with a higher level bridge, ideally with a bridge high enough to be a fixed span, but that is few years away.
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