By Gregory B. Hladky
3:13 PM EDT, October 1, 2012
Okay, it's really nice that Gov. Dannel Malloy and a gaggle of various transportation bureaucrats announced today that Connecticut's got another $121 million in federal cash for improvements to the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail program.
Money for rail is good. Getting people out of their cars and onto trains is very good.
But listen closely: No matter what you hear or read about this project, it is NOT HIGH-SPEED RAIL.
High-speed rail lines in France, Japan and China carry "bullet trains" at speeds that usually average above 150 miles per hour and can top 300 mph.
If all goes well with Connecticut's new 62-mile-long rail scheme from New Haven to Springfield, a train might be able to hit a top speed of 125 mph for very short distances between stops to pick up and drop off passengers. Average speeds would be closer to 60 mph, according to state and federal estimates.
Now, that's definitely an improvement over the average 40 mph of the Amtrak trains currently traveling the route, which might best be described as "Slow-Assed Rail."
And it's a great thing that the planned start of the new service will mean 12 trains a day making 17 round-trips daily, running every 30 minutes during peak hours.
But this is NOT HIGH-SPEED RAIL. It can't be, with stops at places all along the route to pick up and drop off passengers.
Calling it "high-speed" may sound sexy, and it may help Connecticut tap into that pool of federal money for "high-speed rail" programs, but it's only going to create absurd expectations that can't be met when those trains actually get rolling.
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