Both Missouri and Kansas will submit
applications for federal economic stimulus money for
high-speed rail; and both applications would help keep
Kansas City’s Union Station on track to recover some of
its past passenger rail glory.
The Obama Administration released its
guidelines for applications for the money last week and
transportation officials in both states have been poring
over the more-than-60-page document.
Missouri has been working out the
outline of a “shovel-ready” application in talks with
Amtrak and the Union Pacific Railroad, said Brian Weiler,
multi-modal operations director for the Missouri Department
“We were just waiting on the
guidance,” Weiler said.
Although MoDOT officials are still
ironing out many of the details, the state will probably
ask for $100 million to $150 million, he said.
The foundation of Missouri’s application will be based on a
two-year study done by the University of Missouri’s engineering school on the Amtrak route between St. Louis and Kansas City and has as its goal increasing the top speed of passenger trains from 79 miles an hour to 90 miles an hour and improving the on-time reliability of trains between the two cities.
That study identified several bottlenecks on the route, which is on a Union Pacific mainline, mostly between Kansas City and Jefferson City.
“We're working on eliminating the bottlenecks,“ Weiler said.
Union Pacific added another track on a bridge across the Gasconnade River and the state is adding a long passing track at California.
The state has completed design work for
a second passing track at Knob Noster and is working out issues
involving a third passing track at Strasburg, he said.
Adding another track to a bridge over the Osage River is
also in the works, he said.
MoDOT will ask the Missouri engineering
school to do a followup study as well, he said.
“The FRA (Federal Rail Administration)
will be able to see exactly what they’ll be getting for
their money if we get the dollars,” Weiler said.
Kansas City is part of a national
high-speed rail network proposed by the Obama
However, competition for the high-speed economic stimulus money will likely be fierce. Californiaand Florida voters approved ambitious high-speed rail networks tying together most large cities in those states and -- with an eye towards the thousands of jobs the
economic stimulus money is expected to create -- are expected to ask for sizeable chunks of the high-speed economic stimulus money to jump-start their plans.
However, Missouri’s application will be competitive, Weiler said.
Missouri is already paying for and started work on projects that will be outlined in the application, he said.
Missouri’s application will also be realistic, he said.
When many people think of high-speed, they think of the bullet trains of Japan or the “Big Orange” TGVs of France barreling across the landscape at 200 miles an hour.
In the U.S., high speed is more a relative term, Weiler will tell you. To reach the speeds of the fast Japanese
and European trains, American trains would need dedicatedright-of-ways with no road crossings, heavy-duty rails, complex train control systems and special locomotives, cars and equipment, which could cost $30 million to $50 million a mile, he said. Raising the top speed along the route from the present 79 miles an hour to 90 miles an hour would be a major improvement in the passenger rail service, he said. In previous conferences on high-speed rail, federal railroad authorities have emphasized that the economic stimulus money will be used for “capital
expenses” rather for paying to run passenger trains.
Weiler said the federal authorities also said they would be
looking at states’ ability to subsidize or operate
passenger trains when they award the economic stimulus
grants for capital expenses.
“Missouri has 30 years of a proven
track record in supporting this line,” Weiler said of the
route between St. Louis and Kansas City. The state
subsidizes the Missouri Mule and Ann Rutledge trains that
run between the two cities.
Kansas is still working on a proposal
that would have the best chance of attracting some of the economic stimulus money,
said Ron Kaufman, Kansas Department of Transportation
spokesman and author of a study of rail passenger service in
Kansas. Kansas is sharing the cost of a
feasibility study on extending the Heartland Flyer, which
runs between Fort Worth, Texas, to Oklahoma City, to Newton,
Kansas. Newton is on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe
mainline that runs across Kansas. Newton is also where the
Heartland Flyer would connect with the Southwest Chief that
runs through Kansas City’s Union Station between Chicago
and Los Angeles.
Kaufman said connecting both passenger
rail routes would be an important boost for both.KDOT’s preferred option is to ask for> approximately $10 million in economic stimulus money to
change the automated rail traffic controls and highway
crossing signals on BNSF tracks between the Oklahoma state
line and Newton to allow passenger trains to use the tracks, Kaufman said.
Presently, the speed limit for freight
trains is 64 miles an hour, he said. The change-over would
allow passenger trains running 79 miles an hour to use the
tracks as well, he said.
Changing the signal sequences to accommodate trains of differing speeds -- none of which can stop in a short time -- is a complicated and expensive process, he said.
KDOT officials were also pleasantly surprised to find the new guidelines released by the Obama Administration include money for passenger rail planning, Kaufman said. The state is also looking at an application for planning funds, he said.
The first batch of paperwork in the three-step application process is due July 10. Weiler and Kaufman said although their states are still looking at the details of the grant documents, both states will have their first paperwork ready by the deadline.