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California Chosen for Rail Study, Official Says : Transportation: State would be among five U.S. regions considered for high-speed train service. Route would run from San Diego to Oakland via Los Angeles.

October 17, 1992|MARK A. STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected California among five U.S. regions as rail corridors in a project aimed at assessing the feasibility of high-speed intercity train travel, state transportation officials said Friday.

Transportation Secretary Andrew H. Card Jr. is scheduled to announce the state's selection Monday at the Santa Fe Railway terminal in San Diego, said a Caltrans official who asked not to be identified.

Card will present state officials with a $1.2-million check that Caltrans officials will use to update and expand a detailed study of the route, the Caltrans official said.

The route under consideration, state officials said, would run 665 miles from San Diego to Los Angeles and up to Oakland. Trains using conventional technology to travel 110 m.p.h. could make the entire run in just over six hours.

California's route is the longest of three high-speed corridors that have been identified. Card announced the first route--a 647-mile line from Detroit to Chicago with branches to St. Louis and Milwaukee--on Thursday. The second line, a 350-mile route between Miami and Orlando, Fla., was announced Friday.

A highly placed source in the Federal Railroad Administration, which is administering the grants, said one of the remaining high-speed corridors is likely to be between Portland, Ore., and Seattle, with connecting service to Vancouver, Canada. A second likely route is south from Washington, D.C., through Richmond, Va., to Charlotte, N.C.

The goal along each route, state and federal transportation officials said, is to improve tracks and eliminate road-rail intersections. This would permit existing trains, usually limited to a maximum of 79 m.p.h, to travel at 110 m.p.h.

As many as 2,800 road-rail intersections could be eliminated over the 15-year life of the program, federal officials said. This is usually done with bridges, and should sharply reduce the hundreds of deaths caused annually by thousands of train-car accidents nationwide.

Although the program does not state it as a goal, these same corridors could be converted to accommodate more exotic high-speed technologies--180-m.p.h. Japanese "bullet trains," the 230-m.p.h. French "TGV" or experimental 300-m.p.h. German magnetic levitation trains.

The five corridors are being chosen by federal officials because they include large urban areas roughly 300 to 400 miles apart. High-speed rail advocates say fast trains traveling at these distances--connecting one city center to another--can most effectively compete with private automobiles and commercial airlines.

Cities along these lines also have common problems, among them air pollution and congested airports.

Electrically powered high-speed trains emit far fewer pollutants per passenger-mile than cars or jets and can postpone or eliminate the need to expand or build new airports to accommodate the rapidly growing number of mid-range and short-haul flights.

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