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FRA to Award Up To $25M to R&D Projects Supporting the Development of High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Service

The US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA-2010-1) soliciting a variety of basic and applied technology research proposals to advance the state of the art in the high-speed rail and intercity passenger service area. Estimated total program funding is $25 million; the award ceiling per project is $2.5 million.

Projects are to be focused towards facilitating the development of technologies that can be used to achieve safe, efficient, and effective deployment of integrated passenger rail systems in the North American rail environment. Such technologies are to:

  1. Reduce the operational and program deployment risks associated with mixed use rail lines;
  2. Improve safety by reducing human and technology failures;
  3. Bring about capital cost reductions and economy in producing equipment and facilities;
  4. Reduce operating costs of rail service by providing more efficient operations;
  5. Improve the reliability of equipment and infrastructure components by reducing failures and/or reducing false failure detections;
  6. Enhance the revenue-generating capability of high-speed operations by attracting greater ridership by reducing trip times, upgrading customer service quality, increasing reliability, or improving on time performance;
  7. Enhance the social benefits and/or environmental aspects of high-speed rail; and
  8. Facilitate the development of domestic manufacture of rail equipment and infrastructure components.


richard schumacher

They may come up with some useful safety improvements for medium-speed passenger rail, but true high-speed (180+ MPH) requires dedicated tracks and complete grade separation. There's no way around it, and it's not cheap. The only thing more expensive would be trying to rely on cars, trucks and airplanes when their fuel goes above $4 per gallon.

It's embarrassing that China invests $50B *per year* on rail transport while we barely do 1/10th as much.


I'll agree that high speed rail serves a strategic alternative to highways and airplanes and certainly could dominate the market in trips between 100-500 miles.

I wonder what the associated cost would be in terms of infrastructure development of HSR vs. the cost of offering some crazy incentives to 'voltify' cars on the road.


richard has it right: For true high-speed rail there's no way around the cost of complete grade separation and dedicated tracks. So if you have to put in a whole new infrastructure why not take the extra step and go maglev? That way you'd be zipping across the country at 300mph instead of 200mph.


This is no where near enough to establish nation wide very high speed electrified trains. China has committed over $120B to increase its very high speed e-rail system from 6800 miles to over 16,000 by end of 2012. It is a very ambitious program and may be delayed by a few months.

USA is very far behind and would require $4800B to $9600B and 10+ years to install 16,000 miles of very high speed e-trains. It may never be done, at least during the current century.


China has $1 trillion in U.S. reserve currency and $1 trillion in U.S. bonds from all those sales to Walmart over the decades. We buy the goods at Walmart but won't pay one DIME extra in taxes, we get what we deserve.

richard schumacher

Maglev goes 0.5X faster but costs 4X as much to build and up to twice as much to operate as does high-speed wheel-on-rail. It's not worth the added cost. Notice that, after completing the Shanghai airport line, China is not now building any more high-speed maglev.


It is amazing how quickly China is catching up with EU with electrified very high speed rail network. China is doing in 5 years what took 30+ years in EU. Could USA do even better?


SJC is correct. That's how we leveled and/or started to reduce our national GHG in the last few years. Of course, our unemployment and trade deficits went up.




In January 2006, the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev Train extension project was proposed by the Shanghai Urban Planning Administrative Bureau. The extension would continue the existing line towards Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, running via Shanghai South Railway Station and the Expo 2010 site, with a possible continuation towards Hangzhou. The extension would allow transferring between the two airports—located 55 km (34 mi) apart—in approximately 15 minutes.

The plan for the extension to Hangzhou was first approved by the central government in February 2006, with a planned date of completion in time for 2010. Work was suspended in 2008, owing to public protests over ***radiation fears.***[4] According to China Daily, as reported on People's Daily Online February 27, 2009, the Shanghai municipal government is considering building the maglev line underground to allay the public's fear of electromagnetic pollution, and the final decision on the maglev line has to be approved by the National Development and Reform commission.

The extension to Hangzhou was finally approved in March 2010, with construction to start in 2010 [5]. The new link will be 199.5 km (124.0 mi) long, 24 km (15 mi) longer than the original plan. The top speed is expected to be 450 km/h (280 mph) but limited to 200 km/h (120 mph) in built-up areas.

Work was suspended owing to public protests over irrational radiation fears, not costs.



The government can not even begin to do this and the private sector will not because it is not immensely profitable.


Maybe what's needed is a Government-owned corporation; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government-owned_corporation. As such it would be run like a business, to keep the taxpayers off the hook, but would be less concerned with making it immensely profitable. Modestly profitable would be good enough.

We in Canada have a long history with "Crown corporations" and they work pretty well.


There has been talk of a "public/private" partnership since the 90s. Right wing politics in the U.S. brands it socialism and claims the private sector and market system will solve all problems.

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