How much would it cost Amtrak to build its own tracks/right of way in areas where it gets a lot of pax?

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Cal

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See I narrowed it down since they don't need to/would be prohibitively expensive to do it everywhere.
Wouldn't it also be prohibitively expensive to do it in major metropolitan areas where there is very little (or no) available land? You'd have to purchase the property. Imagine the expense if Amtrak bought land between Washington and Boston for their own tracks.
 

Tom Booth

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Wouldn't it also be prohibitively expensive to do it in major metropolitan areas where there is very little (or no) available land? You'd have to purchase the property. Imagine the expense if Amtrak bought land between Washington and Boston for their own tracks.
Doesn't Amtrak already own most of the tracks between Bos and DC? Save for the track owned by other passenger systems, i.e., MTA.
 

jiml

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Wouldn't it also be prohibitively expensive to do it in major metropolitan areas where there is very little (or no) available land? You'd have to purchase the property. Imagine the expense if Amtrak bought land between Washington and Boston for their own tracks.
Good point, bad example. (See post above.) However, as has also been discussed in another thread, if they wanted to acquire additional land to straighten out the NEC, then yes it would be prohibitively expensive.
 
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cirdan

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Many commuter services use tracks that have either been abandoned or see only residual levels of freight.

Repurposing existing tracks is typically much cheaper and faster to achieve than building from scratch.

Costs can vary, depending on the condition of the track at the start and required upgrades to safety systems etc.

If you want to see what a new line costs when built from scratch, look at California HSR, Texas Central, Brightline West etc.

I think it's something you would really only want to do as a last resort.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Many commuter services use tracks that have either been abandoned or see only residual levels of freight.

Repurposing existing tracks is typically much cheaper and faster to achieve than building from scratch.

Costs can vary, depending on the condition of the track at the start and required upgrades to safety systems etc.

If you want to see what a new line costs when built from scratch, look at California HSR, Texas Central, Brightline West etc.

I think it's something you would really only want to do as a last resort.
Maybe he can start a GoFundMe for Amtrak. :D
 

John Bredin

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Repurposing existing tracks is typically much cheaper and faster to achieve than building from scratch.
Along the same lines (pun not intended), there's lots of places where the right-of-way (ROW) of active railroads used to hold more tracks than now. It would still be expensive, but not nearly as expensive as a whole new ROW, for Amtrak to re-lay a track in the empty space where track used to be. The freight railroad would want to be paid for using part of the ROW, of course, but they're not using the land now.

Where's there's enough spare room to put in sidings too, Amtrak could have its own line and dispatch itself, sharing only the ROW with the host railroad. The costs of maintaining the underlying ROW would have to be split with the host, but (1) freight dispatchers wouldn't be sticking Amtrak trains into sidings to expedite their own trains, and (2) hosts wouldn't be able to play the "we need lots of $$ to carry Amtrak because your trains will be in the way of ours" gambit.
 

Nick Farr

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Just as a ballpark figure.
To summarize what I wrote in other threads, building all new passenger rail lines in the US not a good investment.

There's lots of better ways to spend that money:

1) Eliminate grade crossings wherever possible and beef up barriers where you can't eliminate the crossing. Vehicle and Pedestrian incidents cause the longest delays.

2) Have Amtrak add and own more sidings and double track where there is congestion. As opposed to building new track on host railroads, Amtrak can find willing property owners, smooth out a lot of freight delays and find better ways to partner with host railroads.

3) Actually penalize host railroads for delays. Threaten to nationalize dispatching on host railroads.

4) (Worst case) Nationalize rail dispatching in a manner similar to how Air Traffic Control works.

Eventually, we do want to build from-the-ballast-up High Speed Rail corridors where it makes sense. But not until we know where those corridors are.
 

Cal

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Good point, bad example. (See post above.) However, as has also been discussed in another thread, if they wanted to acquire additional land to straighten out the NEC, then yes it would be prohibitively expensive.
Alright, switch it for LA to San Diego.
 

MikefromCrete

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Alright, switch it for LA to San Diego.
Isn't most of that route already owned by Metrolink and Coaster?

In many metropolitan areas, Amtrak's routes are either owned by Amtrak (such as the approaches to Chicago Union Station) or commuter authorities.
There are some corridors where it would make sense for public authorities to own the track such as the Chicago-St. Louis route (which the state of Illinois should have bought when the Chicago, Missouri and Western went out of business, alas it was picked up by Southern Pacific and is now owned by Union Pacific) and across Northwest Indiana, where abandoned rights of way could be used instead of the highly congested Norfolk Southern, there was once an effort to do this, but it seems to be dead. Michigan and Amtrak already own most of the Porter, IN. to Detroit route. So there are places where Amtrak (or more probably some local government or transit authority) could purchase passenger routes. It some cases it would be easy (CSX seems eager to sell off just about anything), but it would be expensive.
 
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George Harris

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This is an "How high is up?" type of question. See discussions above. First question, are you talking on existing right of ways, extra or parallel tracks within same, or new alignment?

There are some examples of silliness, this one in California of course. When it came to adding tracks along the San Francisco to San Jose line for the HSR, which is already owned by a government agency, a political promise was made, by a person, who in my opinion is an idiot who should have known better, that it could be done without need for additional right of way. As a result, either there will be some areas without the additional track(s) or the politically made promise cannot be kept. This would actually have been one of the simplest possible location for an additional track, as a fairly straight alignment already publicly owned.

For the most part, if you are trying to keep in an existing right of way, you could be increasing reliability, but not likely speed. A prime example would be the Crescent route between Atlanta and Birmingham. The schedule for the 165 mile distance is right at 4 hours which is essentially the best ever. Although it has a nominal 79 mph speed limit, curves keep the speed will below that for virtually the entire distance.

The Brightline where following the Florida East Coast line was fully double track in the past and the second track is being / has been restored. This has been relatively cheap. However you are left with multiple grade crossings.

If you are going to an all new right of way the cost can quickly get astronomical plus needing years for Environmental Impact Studies, satisfying the objections of NIMBY's, etc., etc. which could well result in the route becoming impossible practically.
 

Cal

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Isn't most of that route already owned by Metrolink and Coaster?
I'm talking about what the OP had in mind, buying land and making a totally new ROW just for Amtrak. IMagine the expense of it between LA and San Diego.
 

neroden

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Estimate a billion or two in one-time purchase costs per corridor. (Based on the purchases in Virginia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ontario.) Not really very expensive by federal standards. What's lacking is political will.

The cost of construction varies, but that's the cost of ROW acquisition.
 

Nick Farr

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Estimate a billion or two in one-time purchase costs per corridor. (Based on the purchases in Virginia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ontario.) Not really very expensive by federal standards. What's lacking is political will.
Do you want a railroad line in your backyard?

There's far more voters who will get motivated to STOP new rail lines than welcome them.

That being said, there should be a federal program to outline and acquire ROWs for new commuter rail services whose tracks could be used for intercity services.

ALSO: Have there be funding available to bail out the next freight railroad that goes under, purchasing the ROWs.
 

Qapla

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Add in the cost of litigation ... just because they may own the ROW does not mean they won't face legal battles if/when they start to build additional tracks.
 
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Nick Farr

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Very, very much so. I can even point to the former railway line which was across the street from me, but that one is not practical to restore (it had a zig-zag or switchback in it).
Yes, and I'm sure many folks here wouldn't mind it either--but the point remains that the vast majority of voters in the US do not want new rail running through their backyard (i.e their neighborhoods). This is what makes new rail difficult, beyond the cost.
 

Tlcooper93

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Yes, and I'm sure many folks here wouldn't mind it either--but the point remains that the vast majority of voters in the US do not want new rail running through their backyard (i.e their neighborhoods). This is what makes new rail difficult, beyond the cost.
Not only that, but it’s not even necessary.

This whole topic is kind of needless, as drastically improving rail in this country is feasible without bulldozing a single new foot of ROW.

everyone here I’m sure has a checklist of items to make things better, with new ROW not being on it.

now that’s not to say we shouldn’t be preserving all of the tracks and ROW we have.
 
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