Biden Infrastructure Program and Amtrak

nlogax

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
3,381
Location
London & Scotland
President Biden's long awaited infrastructure plan was unveiled today, a proposal priced at a modest $2 trillion.

As part of that, $621 billion is designated as transportation expenditure. Per the clear breakdown at the Washington Post,

Screenshot 2021-03-31 at 22.43.18.png

$85 billion will go towards the modernization of mass transit and another $80 billion is being sent the way of Amtrak and freight rail companies to cover a series of projects and overdue permanent way maintenance. Included in that is renewed focus on the Hudson Gateway and the River Tunnel programs to repair and add to the existing tunnels which are in bad need of attention post-Hurricane Sandy. The tunnel project alone is budgeted at $11.6 billion.

Good news, and very much expected from Amtrak Joe. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of that $80 billion is spent outside of the tri-state area and the NEC.

Decent summary here. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2021...gateway-tunnel-crucial-to-nj-source-says.html

Funding for the long-sought Gateway Tunnel to carry Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains under the Hudson River will be part of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, NJ Advance Media has learned.

The plan includes fully funding a backlog of major projects along the Northeast Corridor, including Gateway, according to an administration official. The proposal includes $80 billion for Amtrak and federal railroad grant and loan programs, according to an administration fact sheet.
 
Last edited:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
15,510
Location
Mold, Clwyd
Good news, and very much expected from Amtrak Joe. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of that $80 billion is spent outside of the tri-state area and the NEC.
There's this RG piece about upgrades in Virginia too, partly involving Amtrak.
Virginia finalises 10-year passenger rail investment programme | News | Railway Gazette International
USA: Plans to deliver a significant expansion of passenger rail services in the Commonwealth of Virginia took a step forward on March 30 with confirmation that agreement had been reached between the state government, CSX Corp, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express to develop rail corridors broadly parallel to the congested I-95 highway south of Washington DC.

Interesting how they plan to separate passenger and freight traffic, often involving 4-tracking rather than allowing shared access of 2 tracks.
 

squizzler

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2017
Messages
1,617
Location
Jersey, Channel Islands
It is disappointing to see such a large proportion going on electric cars as that is totally regressive. All of society must pay for an already wealthy group to have new Private (albeit electric) cars whereas public transport is by definition open to all. I suppose that is the political horse trade required to getting funds for the transport system.
 

nlogax

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
3,381
Location
London & Scotland
There's this RG piece about upgrades in Virginia too, partly involving Amtrak.
Virginia finalises 10-year passenger rail investment programme | News | Railway Gazette International

I can't really tell whether these announcements are directly enabled by yesterday's proposals or just eased further into reality via the promise of money. The Virginia to DC line plans have been in the works for a couple of years including the new bridge over the Potomac. Regardless, it's definitely good news for DC commuters.

It is disappointing to see such a large proportion going on electric cars as that is totally regressive. All of society must pay for an already wealthy group to have new Private (albeit electric) cars whereas public transport is by definition open to all. I suppose that is the political horse trade required to getting funds for the transport system.

Maybe it is regressive, but it's also a short term plus if thousands or even millions of drivers can be extracted from their 20mpg trucks and into something cleaner. Making that sort of societal change happen takes time and expense. America has been wedded to thirsty trucks, large cars and cheap gas since WW2 ended. Paris accord climate targets are beyond reach until this sort of transformation happens.

Making public transport work across distances in the US will take a long time..we forget most of it is flyover country. I feel that anything that inspires this sort of generational change and secures funding for a swing to public transport is worth doing.
 

37424

Member
Joined
10 Apr 2020
Messages
885
Location
Leeds
It is disappointing to see such a large proportion going on electric cars as that is totally regressive. All of society must pay for an already wealthy group to have new Private (albeit electric) cars whereas public transport is by definition open to all. I suppose that is the political horse trade required to getting funds for the transport system.
Much of the US is designed around Road Transport and just getting them out of their gas guzzling V8's will be a major achievement. Even in this country there will still be parts of the country mainly dependent on road transport and that's vastly more the case in the US, have you even been to the US? I do think some of the Pro public transport brigade sometimes need to take a reality check.
 
Joined
21 Oct 2012
Messages
367
Location
Wilmslow
Amtrak have produced a map of possible expanded passenger services - notable new destinations include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Nashville, Chattanooga and Columbus (largest city in US without any form of passenger rail transport).

Amtrak
 

nlogax

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
3,381
Location
London & Scotland
Amtrak have produced a map of possible expanded passenger services - notable new destinations include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Nashville, Chattanooga and Columbus (largest city in US without any form of passenger rail transport).

Amtrak

Wow, great stuff. And maybe hello again to the full Sunset Limited!
 

popeter45

Member
Joined
7 Dec 2019
Messages
495
Location
london
how much would it cost for electrifcation of any of the Transcontinental railways or any other major US rail lines?
 

ainsworth74

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Global Moderator
Joined
16 Nov 2009
Messages
23,254
Location
Redcar
how much would it cost for electrifcation of any of the Transcontinental railways or any other major US rail lines?

Vast sums of money. Caltrain are undertaking an electrification project of their route between San Francisco and San Jose (around 50 route miles) and that's coming in at somewhere around $2bn. A project to electrify one of the big transcontinental routes like those operated by Union Pacific or BNSF would require a huge amount of cash. Especially those that go through the Rocky Mountains where you'll have long tunnels and snow sheds to work on. Similarly doing it on some of the railroads out east like CSX or Norfolk Southern would be equally tricky with all sorts of clearance issues to deal with. Doing something like Canadian National's route from Chicago through to Louisiana might be somewhat more simple as that at least avoids mountains but you'd still be talking about well over a thousand single track miles of railway to wire up. The costs would just be astronomical really. Considering that, whilst the big Class I railroads are profitable, the margins are often quite narrow I can't see them ever signing up for such projects without massive government intervention.

I think the reality for the time being is simply that US railroad are going to remain bastions of diesel power for many years to come. Probably some of the smaller commuter or suburban rail services (like Caltrain) will get wired up as time goes on and if they ever actually get some significant high speed passenger railway projects going those will be electrified as well (the California High-Speed Rail project is electrified as you'd expect). But outside of that? I can't see it personally.
 

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
15,510
Location
Mold, Clwyd
how much would it cost for electrification of any of the Transcontinental railways or any other major US rail lines?

Two long mountain sections of the Milwaukee Road (MILW), across the Rockies and Cascades, totalling 645 miles, were electrified (3kV DC) soon after building the Pacific extension in the 1910s.
But the wires were pulled down in the 1970s as MILW couldn't afford the renewal cost.
The western part of the line closed in 1980 and the remainder is under different ownership.

Today's transcontinental route owners (UP and BNSF) don't seem much interested in electrification of their main lines, and nor do CP and CN in Canada.
With 10,000 tonne trains the norm, alternative fuels don't get much of a look in.
There are a couple of dedicated power station lines in the mountain/desert west which are electrified, for the relatively short hauls from coal mine to power plant.

By contrast, the Sishen heavy freight line in South Africa (535 miles through the Northern and Western Cape to Saldanha Bay) is electrified (50kV AC, Cape gauge).
It carries supposedly the heaviest trains in the world at 45,000 tons which are 4km long (iron or manganese ore).
Trains need 8-10 locomotives, and some of them (the ones used intermittently as boosters on ascents) are diesel.
 

edwin_m

Veteran Member
Joined
21 Apr 2013
Messages
20,939
Location
Nottingham
Two long mountain sections of the Milwaukee Road (MILW), across the Rockies and Cascades, totalling 645 miles, were electrified (3kV DC) soon after building the Pacific extension in the 1910s.
But the wires were pulled down in the 1970s as MILW couldn't afford the renewal cost.
The western part of the line closed in 1980 and the remainder is under different ownership.

Today's transcontinental route owners (UP and BNSF) don't seem much interested in electrification of their main lines, and nor do CP and CN in Canada.
With 10,000 tonne trains the norm, alternative fuels don't get much of a look in.
There are a couple of dedicated power station lines in the mountain/desert west which are electrified, for the relatively short hauls from coal mine to power plant.
These early 20th century electrifications of mountain sections were driven partly by ventilation issues in tunnels and partly by the extra operating cost of steam traction on severe gradients. Diesels essentially solved both problems, and saved the costs associated with locomotive changes at each end of the wired sections as well as of maintaining the overhead line.

Ironic that decarbonisation in the USA is likely to close the coal-fired power stations and may end up reducing the amount of rail freight traffic worked by electricity.
 

sprunt

Member
Joined
22 Jul 2017
Messages
922
Is there any more detail available on these proposals yet, or is there just the outline already linked to? I'm curious about the proposal to serve Ronkonkoma on Long Island, to the east of New York. I spent a few weeks on Long Island for work about 20 years ago and got to know the area a bit, and at the time the Long Island Railroad were providing what seemed to be a decent service. With that (admittedly possibly outdated) knowledge, it's unclear what Amtrak could add - I'm not sure there's capacity to run express services that wouldn't have the commuter trains getting in the way and Ronkonkoma isn't a particular population centre, it's just part of the Long Island sprawl. There is a domestic airport adjacent to (but not especially convenient for - think Middlesbrough airport) Ronkonkoma station but even so, I'm not sure what Amtrak can provide there that the LIRR can't.
 

JonasB

Member
Joined
27 Dec 2016
Messages
553
Location
Sweden
Vast sums of money. Caltrain are undertaking an electrification project of their route between San Francisco and San Jose (around 50 route miles) and that's coming in at somewhere around $2bn.

But to be fair, that money includes other upgrades and a bunch of new EMUs as well.
 

ainsworth74

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Global Moderator
Joined
16 Nov 2009
Messages
23,254
Location
Redcar
But to be fair, that money includes other upgrades and a bunch of new EMUs as well.

True but nearly any electrification project out there is going to require new EMUs or electric locomotives and, I'd gamble, plenty of other infrastructure work too (for instance signals might not be as common as they are on our densely trafficked railway but they do exist and I'd bet they're not immunised). I'd gamble that the Caltrain cost wouldn't be that out of whack as a yardstick.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
5,997
It is disappointing to see such a large proportion going on electric cars as that is totally regressive. All of society must pay for an already wealthy group to have new Private (albeit electric) cars
I think you will find that in the USA cars are seen as essential at all levels of society. Meanwhile rail travel in the USA is principally suburbs-to-city commuter travel, which itself is typically confined to the higher income groups from leafy suburbia. So actually a reversal to what is described. You only have to experience USA commuter rail, and USA city buses, to see they serve opposite ends of the social spectrum.
 

edwin_m

Veteran Member
Joined
21 Apr 2013
Messages
20,939
Location
Nottingham
True but nearly any electrification project out there is going to require new EMUs or electric locomotives and, I'd gamble, plenty of other infrastructure work too (for instance signals might not be as common as they are on our densely trafficked railway but they do exist and I'd bet they're not immunised). I'd gamble that the Caltrain cost wouldn't be that out of whack as a yardstick.
I think the point is that in the UK electrification costs only include the infrastructure, so any comparison with US figures needs to take account of the latter probably also including rolling stock.
I think you will find that in the USA cars are seen as essential at all levels of society. Meanwhile rail travel in the USA is principally suburbs-to-city commuter travel, which itself is typically confined to the higher income groups from leafy suburbia. So actually a reversal to what is described. You only have to experience USA commuter rail, and USA city buses, to see they serve opposite ends of the social spectrum.
The larger Northeastern cities, plus Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, are sort of comparable to European conditions with some level of all-day transit service that makes it possible for a reasonable number of people to have a worthwhile lifestyle without a car. New York dominates in this respect, probably still having more transit than everywhere else in the USA put together.

If anyone is car-free elsewhere, it's probably not by choice.
 

67thave

Member
Joined
9 Nov 2020
Messages
27
Location
Long Island
Is there any more detail available on these proposals yet, or is there just the outline already linked to? I'm curious about the proposal to serve Ronkonkoma on Long Island, to the east of New York. I spent a few weeks on Long Island for work about 20 years ago and got to know the area a bit, and at the time the Long Island Railroad were providing what seemed to be a decent service. With that (admittedly possibly outdated) knowledge, it's unclear what Amtrak could add - I'm not sure there's capacity to run express services that wouldn't have the commuter trains getting in the way and Ronkonkoma isn't a particular population centre, it's just part of the Long Island sprawl. There is a domestic airport adjacent to (but not especially convenient for - think Middlesbrough airport) Ronkonkoma station but even so, I'm not sure what Amtrak can provide there that the LIRR can't.
I'm pretty sure this is just an outline.
Long Island, which already has extensive passenger rail service, would be unlikely to receive any Amtrak service in the future unless a New York to Boston high-speed railway is built through the middle of the island, along the North Fork, and then crossing the Sound from Orient to Westerly.
The more realistic option is that Amtrak enters some sort of through-ticketing agreement with the LIRR, as they already have similar partnerships elsewhere (such as with SEPTA in Philadelphia to/from Suburban Station and NJT for trains from Philadelphia to Atlantic City).
 

JonasB

Member
Joined
27 Dec 2016
Messages
553
Location
Sweden
True but nearly any electrification project out there is going to require new EMUs or electric locomotives and, I'd gamble, plenty of other infrastructure work too (for instance signals might not be as common as they are on our densely trafficked railway but they do exist and I'd bet they're not immunised). I'd gamble that the Caltrain cost wouldn't be that out of whack as a yardstick.

Yes, new rolling stock will be needed. But things such as PTC or new platforms should not be considered electrification costs. And there are probably different costs in urban areas vs the countryside. And for larger projects, economies of scale will probably reduce the cost. But the Caltrain cost is probably not that far off from what a larger project would cost.

What could be really useful though is bimode locos. It would allow freight companies to use less diesel in urban areas and Amtrak could save a bit of time by not having to change locos.
 

the sniper

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2007
Messages
2,558
The likes of Cheyenne to Pueblo with a (semi) regular service would seem like a no brainer and the direction Amtrak should be going in. It'd be interesting to know what journey times could be achieved, but the lines between the cities don't look too slow so may not be too unfavourable compared to road travel.
 

edwin_m

Veteran Member
Joined
21 Apr 2013
Messages
20,939
Location
Nottingham
A viewpoint on where in the USA might be viable for high speed rail. Further details in linked previous posts.
High-Speed Rail Followup | Pedestrian Observations
My map differs from past ones in visible ways – for one, it is not connected. At the time I started to make it, I believed there would be four components: Florida, Texas, California, and the general Eastern network. It turned out late in the process that there’s decent demand for Atlanta-Florida travel, enough to justify connecting Florida to the general network. But Texas and California remain disconnected, as does the marginal case of the Pacific Northwest.

Analytically, I project traffic by a gravity model, depending on the product of two metro areas’ populations
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
5,997
Amtrak have produced a map of possible expanded passenger services - notable new destinations include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Nashville, Chattanooga and Columbus (largest city in US without any form of passenger rail transport).

Amtrak
The map, however, seems to contain principally "new" routes that are actually those Amtrak has run in various past years and given up as unprofitable (and generally because they were absolute financial basket cases for them).

And goodness knows how Ronkonkoma got on there. Is it an April Fool? It's like InterCity deciding to serve Upminster ...
 

DelW

Established Member
Joined
15 Jan 2015
Messages
1,727
What could be really useful though is bimode locos. It would allow freight companies to use less diesel in urban areas and Amtrak could save a bit of time by not having to change locos.
There have been passenger bimode locos in the USA for many years, as diesels aren't allowed in the Park Avenue tunnels to Grand Central Terminal. Services were hauled by EMD FL9s for around 40 years until they were replaced by GE P32AC-DMs.
 

ac6000cw

Established Member
Joined
10 May 2014
Messages
2,178
Location
Cambridge, UK
The map, however, seems to contain principally "new" routes that are actually those Amtrak has run in various past years and given up as unprofitable (and generally because they were absolute financial basket cases for them).
...and some of the new & enhanced service routes are effectively controlled by the state transportation departments (e.g. Pacific Northwest, California), with Amtrak as a sub-contract operator/rolling stock maintainer - Amtrak couldn't increase services without the states paying for it. The San Jose - San Luis Obispo 'new service' on a slow section of route doesn't seem a hot prospect...(the Coast Starlight takes around 4.5 - 5 hours to cover the 200 miles between those points - 40-45 mph average - on a line that carries few other trains. San Jose - LA is 10 to 11 hours for 420 miles...).
 

JonasB

Member
Joined
27 Dec 2016
Messages
553
Location
Sweden
There have been passenger bimode locos in the USA for many years, as diesels aren't allowed in the Park Avenue tunnels to Grand Central Terminal. Services were hauled by EMD FL9s for around 40 years until they were replaced by GE P32AC-DMs.
I am aware of that, but there can certainly be a use for more. And locos that are designed for catenarys, like the ALP-45DP.
 

ac6000cw

Established Member
Joined
10 May 2014
Messages
2,178
Location
Cambridge, UK
Today's transcontinental route owners (UP and BNSF) don't seem much interested in electrification of their main lines, and nor do CP and CN in Canada.

With 10,000 tonne trains the norm, alternative fuels don't get much of a look in.
There are a couple of dedicated power station lines in the mountain/desert west which are electrified, for the relatively short hauls from coal mine to power plant.
I suspect (out of all of them) that BNSF might be the first to get tempted - its 'Southern Transcon' route between LA and the Midwest is a very busy intermodal route (they've only recently completed a long term program to double-track nearly all of it) and they are owned by a private-equity company which seems to be willing to take a long-term view of investment returns.

I'd start with LA to Barstow (which also carries significant passenger traffic between downtown LA and San Bernardino) - no tunnels that I can think of, potentially better perfomance climbing Cajon Pass, and all trains stop at Barstow for crew changes anyway, so loco changes there might not be such a big deal. (Barstow is one of the main BNSF bases 'out west').

Then push the wires east across the desert and prairies - the main problem I suspect would be getting sufficient power supplies in what are relatively sparsely populated areas.

You could solve some of that problem by adding 'battery tenders' to a loco consist combined with OHLE in places where grid power is readily available. A few hundred tonnes of extra battery tenders would not be that significant in an 8000 tonne double-stack train (the four diesel locos on the front of a typical intermodal weigh nearly 800 tonnes in total anyway). Maybe a mother & slug arrangement, with the batteries and some extra traction motors - for low speed/upgrade/downgrade assistance - on the slug and the rest of the power equipment on the mother unit.

But I think they'll go diesel-battery hybrids first (which would enable downhill dynamic braking energy recovery into the batteries).
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
5,997
I suspect (out of all of them) that BNSF might be the first to get tempted - its 'Southern Transcon' route between LA and the Midwest is a very busy intermodal route (they've only recently completed a long term program to double-track nearly all of it)
As I have written before, all the headroom to install overhead wiring has been absorbed by the height needed for double-stack container trains, which themselves needed various works to fit beneath structures. Despite the "wide open spaces" perception, there isn't the space under bridges etc any more. Nor have I seen any serious discussion about how to handle this. Look at the second half of this video of a double-stack in Wyoming passing under a modern bridge. There just isn't the clearance any more for 25kV :

UP Challenger #3985 + 143 Freight Cars - YouTube

The old Santa Fe line from LA to Chicago was always double track and CTC from way back in steam days.
 
Last edited:

ac6000cw

Established Member
Joined
10 May 2014
Messages
2,178
Location
Cambridge, UK
The old Santa Fe line from LA to Chicago was always double track
No it wasn't all double tracked - a quote from the BNSF website ( https://bnsf.com/news-media/railtalk/service/southern-transcon.html ):

In 1992, Santa Fe began a decades-long project to double-track the 512 miles of the route that remained single-tracked.
That's out of a total of about 2220 miles. There's a couple of bridges that are still single track, but it's virtually 100% multiple track now (parts are triple and quadruple track, including triple track on Cajon Pass).

If they needed to put OHLE up, I'm sure they could do it - anything's possible with enough time and money to throw at it. There was video someone posted recently on here of an Indian Railways electric hauled double-stack train (using higher floor wagons than US well wagons too).

I don't think it's at all likely that significant new railroad freight electrification is going to happen in the US in the near future - diesel-battery (or CNG/LNG-battery) hybrid locos are far more likely in the shorter term, as they should provide an immediate payback due to fuel cost savings.

EDIT: This is the Indian Railways double-stack video:

 
Last edited:

stuu

Member
Joined
2 Sep 2011
Messages
276
As I have written before, all the headroom to install overhead wiring has been absorbed by the height needed for double-stack container trains, which themselves needed various works to fit beneath structures. Despite the "wide open spaces" perception, there isn't the space under bridges etc any more. Nor have I seen any serious discussion about how to handle this. Look at the second half of this video of a double-stack in Wyoming passing under a modern bridge. There just isn't the clearance any more for 25kV :

UP Challenger #3985 + 143 Freight Cars - YouTube

The old Santa Fe line from LA to Chicago was always double track and CTC from way back in steam days.
Hard to tell exactly from the video but it looks to me that there is space for wiring. Only about 500mm is needed. Lowering the track is also an option, and even rebuilding the bridge is a lot easier than some here as there is plenty of space around the line. The number of overbridges per mile west of Chicago is absolutely miniscule, so the proportion of the cost spent on civils will be a lot lower than here, for most of the route. I still can't see it happening anytime soon though
 

ac6000cw

Established Member
Joined
10 May 2014
Messages
2,178
Location
Cambridge, UK
According to this summary of the Caltrain Electrification Program, it's designed to accommodate 'Plate-H' height freight cars e.g. double-stack and Autorack cars, and says that the maximum wire height is 23.5 feet.

So handling the necessary wire/pantograph height to handle double-stacks isn't a problem, it's just a problem of providing the extra clearance under structures in some places. Difficult (expensive) sections to deal with could be unwired and handled using battery power (or just coasting in reasonably flat areas - there is a lot of momentum in thousands of tonnes of train).
 

Top