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How much would it cost for Amtrak to build their own tracks nationwide?

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railiner

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Would anyone build a whole brand new freeway across the country to allow one or two vehicles to drive along it each day?

Given the lack of passenger revenue, even allowing for ridership to increase by tenfold this just won't err, fly...
I get your meaning, but it's not really a good analogy...if a new freeway is built anywhere, it will very quickly be choked with traffic, as experience proves...;)
 

Qapla

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quickly be choked with traffic, as experience proves
A good example of that is the Buchman Bridge in Jacksonville, Fl. In 1963 it was decided a bridge joining Orange Park to Madarin should be built to make a way across from those two points that didn't require an hour round-about-trip. They built a 4-labe bridge comprised of two two-lane spans. I remember when the bridge was new in the early 1970's. It was like taking a bridge to nowhere. There was hardly any traffic on the bridge and, even though Orange Park was a "fair size", there was not much at the south end of the bridge.

People began to ponder the wisdom of spending "all that money" on a bridge that no one uses.

In 1995, the bridge was expanded from two lanes in each direction with partial breakdown lanes to four lanes in each direction with full breakdown lanes. Today, it is one of the most used bridges in Jacksonville with rush-hour traffic causing severe backups in both directions.

Like Kevin Costner's experience - "Build it and they will come ..."
 

caravanman

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The point was that Amtrak only runs one train a day over much of America. Building your own new private freeway if you only have one vehicle a day to use it is bonkers, it only works if thousands can use it each day.
Amtrak can't utilise a new network profitably, as it can't run frequent enough services to make it pay.
 

Qapla

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It doesn't have to pay ...

That road does not "pay" regardless if it has one car or bumper-to-bumper traffic - it does not collect any revenue unless it is a toll road.

There are thousands of paved county roads all over this country that cost millions to build that do not have hundreds of cars driving down them each day - many, many of them with way less people per day than a single LD Amtrak train carries - yet, no one expects them to "turn a profit" or complain because they were built ... in fact, just the opposite, they complain if they are not paved and kept repaired.
 
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west point

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We do not have to worry about passenger only one RT a day. But there is a great need in several locations for additional tracks.
1. San Diego - LAX,
2. Sacremento - San Jose = Some third track
3. SEA - PDX
4. CHI - STL
5. South of the Lake = a Big need probably 2 main tracks
6. Richmond - WASH = Third and some 4th trackk.
7. NYP - Albany - Buffalo = passenger only 1 and 2 additional
8. Some third track or fourth New Haven - Boston
9. And of course Brightline is doubling all tracks MIA- Cocoa. And if they are too sucessful will need more second track Cocoa - Orlando. At a price of what $2B+ ?
 

caravanman

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It doesn't have to pay ...
That road does not "pay" regardless if it has one car or bumper-to-bumper traffic - it does not collect any revenue unless it is a toll road.
By "pay" of course I meant repay the original and day to day costs in some way. My example of building a new road to benefit just one vehicle a day was hypothetical, to illustrate how silly the idea of building a new rail line across America to benefit one train a day is, which was the original topic of this thread.

In answer to the toll road comment, I would say there are other ways that a road "repays" it's costs, by allowing commerce to thrive, shops, businesses, communities all get benefit. This applies to train tracks too of course.
 

railiner

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By "pay" of course I meant repay the original and day to day costs in some way. My example of building a new road to benefit just one vehicle a day was hypothetical, to illustrate how silly the idea of building a new rail line across America to benefit one train a day is, which was the original topic of this thread.

In answer to the toll road comment, I would say there are other ways that a road "repays" it's costs, by allowing commerce to thrive, shops, businesses, communities all get benefit. This applies to train tracks too of course.
I hadn't even thought of that, but how very true....when a new road is built, the property values (and taxes) in its vicinity skyrocket. Even in rural area's, every new Interstate Highway exit mushrooms into a 'town' of motel's, restaurants, gas station's, etc....
 

tgstubbs1

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I hadn't even thought of that, but how very true....when a new road is built, the property values (and taxes) in its vicinity skyrocket. Even in rural area's, every new Interstate Highway exit mushrooms into a 'town' of motel's, restaurants, gas station's, etc....
The same with rail, even more so. Housing developments, even towns result from light rail stations. Rail is excellent for helping real estate values and thus reducing price pressure in overcrowded cities.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Would anyone build a whole brand new freeway across the country to allow one or two vehicles to drive along it each day? Given the lack of passenger revenue, even allowing for ridership to increase by tenfold this just won't err, fly...
The point was that Amtrak only runs one train a day over much of America. Building your own new private freeway if you only have one vehicle a day to use it is bonkers, it only works if thousands can use it each day. Amtrak can't utilise a new network profitably, as it can't run frequent enough services to make it pay.
My example of building a new road to benefit just one vehicle a day was hypothetical, to illustrate how silly the idea of building a new rail line across America to benefit one train a day is, which was the original topic of this thread.
I think most members realize that it would make no sense to build a nationwide rail network for one train per day.

I hadn't even thought of that, but how very true....when a new road is built, the property values (and taxes) in its vicinity skyrocket. Even in rural area's, every new Interstate Highway exit mushrooms into a 'town' of motel's, restaurants, gas station's, etc....
I've seen plenty of towns that vanished into obscurity after a new highway bypassed main street.
 
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tgstubbs1

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Before trains, people hardly traveled cross country at all. Now with jets going everywhere people travel more than ever (before the virus). The travel medium makes it market, to a degree.
 

jis

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Would anyone build a whole brand new freeway across the country to allow one or two vehicles to drive along it each day?

Given the lack of passenger revenue, even allowing for ridership to increase by tenfold this just won't err, fly...
Frankly I think this is a strawman set up, and then knocked down several times.

Talking of building new ROWs in New York State or down the east coast is not about running a single train but enabling corridors running dozens of trains a day, and all of them not even necessarily end to end either. It is quite sad and counter-productive to try to characterize such efforts as mindless ones for building new ROW for a single train each day.

Yes there are other places where such a criticism is appropriate. But there are literally dozens of corridors, some of considerable length where that criticism does not hold water. Each corridor needs to be evaluated based on its potential, and not some sweeping general principle. Just IMHO of course.
 

railiner

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The same with rail, even more so. Housing developments, even towns result from light rail stations. Rail is excellent for helping real estate values and thus reducing price pressure in overcrowded cities.
Isn't that pretty much what Brightline/FEC is counting on?
 

Qapla

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Perhaps, instead of building a "separate passenger network" there could be some sort of "revision" where a "passenger first" set of rails could be laid along existing tracks. These could be used for passenger service first/primarily and allow freight when there is time and space for it - these passenger rails being controlled by Amtrak dispatch - not freight dispatch.

Shouldn't have to buy as much land if you are using existing ROW - and judges should refuse to hear cases of people who want to block "double tracking" when they have lived with a single track without bringing suit.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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You might think so, but this thread has over 80 replies !
You seem to have assumed the opening post expected everything besides the new tracks would be left exactly the same. Except that we're talking about a massive project that would likely cost hundreds of billions and take decades to finish. I agree that it's unclear precisely what the OP had in mind when they started the thread but I would imagine most replies assumed a whole new network costing so much time and money would come with several trains per day.
 

railiner

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Just a slight 'divergence' here....

If our nation suddenly took rail transport more seriously, and decided to build an entire new network to allow high speed trains, etc...
Would it be a good idea to take that opportunity to build an entirely new broad gauge system, with commensurately larger loading gauge as well?

Think: "Supertrain", for those that recall that old NBC fantasy show....:)

 

Qapla

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That would be an interesting idea.

Would it be possible to achieve a true high speed train if it were wider?

If you could use a gauge that would allow the cars to be 12'-16' wide that would certainly make for some interesting passenger car designs/ideas

Of course, designers would probably use that extra space to crowd more people into less space instead of making private rooms more spacious and comfortable.
 

tgstubbs1

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We do not have to worry about passenger only one RT a day. But there is a great need in several locations for additional tracks.
1. San Diego - LAX,
2. Sacremento - San Jose = Some third track
3. SEA - PDX
4. CHI - STL
5. South of the Lake = a Big need probably 2 main tracks
6. Richmond - WASH = Third and some 4th trackk.
7. NYP - Albany - Buffalo = passenger only 1 and 2 additional
8. Some third track or fourth New Haven - Boston
9. And of course Brightline is doubling all tracks MIA- Cocoa. And if they are too sucessful will need more second track Cocoa - Orlando. At a price of what $2B+ ?
They should have sidings long enough for a super long freight train on all the lines.
 

caravanman

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Frankly I think this is a strawman set up, and then knocked down several times.

Talking of building new ROWs in New York State or down the east coast is not about running a single train but enabling corridors running dozens of trains a day, and all of them not even necessarily end to end either. It is quite sad and counter-productive to try to characterize such efforts as mindless ones for building new ROW for a single train each day.

Yes there are other places where such a criticism is appropriate. But there are literally dozens of corridors, some of considerable length where that criticism does not hold water. Each corridor needs to be evaluated based on its potential, and not some sweeping general principle. Just IMHO of course.
I assumed that the original posters idea was to allow passenger trains to run freely without delay by freight trains.
I thought the N.E. passenger corridor was already predominantly used by Amtrak, do freight trains cause major delays here?
I am all for more trains, goodness knows, but the current (pre-covid) long distance train timetable of one train a day on shared tracks seems unlikely to blossom into dozens of trains a day if new passenger only tracks were built.
I agree that frequent shorter point to point routes covering a days travel seems a good direction to move in.
 

jiml

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Perhaps, instead of building a "separate passenger network" there could be some sort of "revision" where a "passenger first" set of rails could be laid along existing tracks. These could be used for passenger service first/primarily and allow freight when there is time and space for it - these passenger rails being controlled by Amtrak dispatch - not freight dispatch.

Shouldn't have to buy as much land if you are using existing ROW - and judges should refuse to hear cases of people who want to block "double tracking" when they have lived with a single track without bringing suit.
The answer is actually buried in this post. It will take some significant investment in existing infrastructure, whether that is additional passing sidings, double-tracking single lines or adding additional tracks to areas that already are (where space permits) such as some of those mentioned earlier - ex-NYC comes to mind. The key might be to enlist the affected freight railroads as partners rather than adversaries, selling them on their benefits derived from cooperation.
 

west point

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The above post about passenger trains first new track has merit. Allowing freght trains may be allowed but there needs to be several changes to how it will be allowed. First let us look at No Cal operation of Sacremento to San Jose. The rail line for the most part is all 79 MPH except in the few places where topography prevents that speed with permanent speed restrictions. The 79 speeds are not having the occasional temporary speed reductions that often occurr on other rail lines. That is because CAL DOT pays for surfacing all the track at least once in between and in some places twice what UP would be doing to the track for just freight trains. Have read that there is a permanently assigned surfacing machhine on that track but have no independent confirmation.

A passenger train with its 159k# cars has much less wear and tear on track and surfacing than freight trains with many cars loaded to the 286k# car loads. Have not seen actual research but suspect that wear and tear is exponentially higher per pound of weight such as road loads to the 4th power. Only the passenger locos exceed those weights although for the most part they are only 4 wheel trucks. Also suspension of passenger cars are much more forgiving of track structures especially switches and frogs.

If a section of a passenger only track is used by a freight train there needs to be a charge for any car and loco over the weight of a passenger car using current weight in motion tech. As well wheel impact load detctors (WILDs) should be installed to bill any RR bringing a car with a flat wheel over the passenger track. Those impacts can do major damage to rails and may cause rail to be ground to eliminate the impact dents. All very costly to maintain smooth rail passenger trains.
 

Nick Farr

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Talking of building new ROWs in New York State or down the east coast is not about running a single train but enabling corridors running dozens of trains a day, and all of them not even necessarily end to end either. It is quite sad and counter-productive to try to characterize such efforts as mindless ones for building new ROW for a single train each day.
There's two arguments here:

1) Building (or realigning and refurbishing existing) ROWs that connect nearby cities. The idea is exactly that, corridors that can be used by high speed intercity trains and more local commuter rail. Straightening the NEC and making better rail + ballast systems along with express tracks could cut the travel time between WAS and BOS to around 2.5 hours--solidly beating any flight alternatives for time. These plans exist, have been well studied and could be in near constant use to try to replace car traffic and extend the practical life of freeway systems by driving down traffic.

2) Building a brand new High-Speed Rail network to connect every major city from coast to coast, including lines between cities over 400 miles apart that have very little potential for intermediate stops.

Until the first is accomplished, there's really no point to building the second. I believe OP was advocating for #2.

In almost all cases, public coffers support the design and construction of the ROWs and subsidize maintenance, allowing for any qualified operator to run services on them. This is how airports work, after all.
 

jis

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The problem is that we always get hung up in theoretical discussions of extreme positions instead of deploying the same energy in pragmatic evolution. Until we get out of that more there is little hope that rail advocates will manage to do anything really positive for the growth of passenger rail system. As it is over half the advocates spend all their time trying to recreate or restore the 1950s instead of dong any consolidatd planning to grow the system. The future of apssenger rail for these various reasons in the US still remains pretty bleak IMHO.
 

Nick Farr

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The problem is that we always get hung up in theoretical discussions of extreme positions instead of deploying the same energy in pragmatic evolution.
Me: "Hey, maybe we could get service on the LD trains to improve if we sent some e-mails and surveys to help hold OBS accountable..."

Forum: "I NEVER READ JUNK EMAILZ WE NEED HIGH SPEED RAIL WITH TABLECLOTH DINING STEAKS AND DINNER SALADS OR IM NEVER RIDING AMTRAK AGAIIIIIIN".
 

jis

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Me: "Hey, maybe we could get service on the LD trains to improve if we sent some e-mails and surveys to help hold OBS accountable..."

Forum: "I NEVER READ JUNK EMAILZ WE NEED HIGH SPEED RAIL WITH TABLECLOTH DINING STEAKS AND DINNER SALADS OR IM NEVER RIDING AMTRAK AGAIIIIIIN".
I guess you and I share certain frustrations :)

The fact of the matter though is that the LD network will just futz along as is unless we are able to significantly improve timeliness, reliability and speed. I am not suggesting 320kph (200mph), but it would sure be nice to get to a 160kph (100mph) norm as a starter. We are just talking 30kph (~20mph) more, and it really is getting the system upto a marginally better shape than it was in almost a hundred years back.

I think Brightline in Florida is following an approach in terms of speed and dispatch reliability that should be repeatable elsewhere if unused real estate in existing ROWs were utilized to build passenger exclusive, or at least predominant passenger use, tracks to 160-200kph (100-125mph) standard of track quality and safety gear.
 
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