Boston they speed up to 150 miles per hour.
,betweenChicago and Los Angeles, and its
,between Los Angeles and San Diego, reachspeedsof90milesperhour.Otherwise, the maximum speed for pas-sengertrainsthroughouttheUnitedStatesis79 miles per hour—and then only on routeswith proper train control systems and whosegrade crossings are fully protected by cross-ingsignalsandgates.Withoutthesefeatures,the maximum speed is no more than 59miles per hour.Rail advocates point to the much higherspeeds attained by trains in other nations asevidencethattheUnitedStatesis“behindthetimes.”ThetrainbetweenBeijingandTianjin,China, reaches speeds of nearly 220 miles perhour.
Startingin2011,Japanplanstooperatetrains as fast as 200 miles per hour.
Trains inFrancegofasterthan185milesperhour,whiletrains in Germany and Britain are nearly thatfast.
The Federal Railroad Administration setsnational standards for regulating the maxi-mum speeds on all rail lines in the nationaccording to the quality of the track and thesophistication of the train signaling systems.To go at successively higher speeds, rails mustbemaintainedtoincreasinglystrictstandards.
Most rail lines have signals that informtrain crews if there are other trains ahead of them. Passenger trains on lines that have nosignals are limited to 59 miles per hour. Withsignals,trainscango79milesperhour.Trainscan only go faster if the railroad has installedautomatic systems that will stop the trainwhen necessary—even if the crew fails to stopthetrain.
FRArulesalsolimitspeedsbasedongradecrossings.Fortrainstogoupto110milesperhour, crossings must have signals and gates.From110to125milesperhour,crossingsareonlyallowediftheyincludean“impenetrablebarrier” when trains approach. Above 125miles per hour, no crossings are allowed.
In 1991, Congress asked the FRA to desig-nate up to five high-speed rail corridors,expanded to eleven in 1998.
These corridorsare eligible for federal funding for planningand improvements such as the installation of gradecrossingsignalsandguards,thoughthe$30 million available for such grants in 2008will not go very far.
The 11 “corridors”—oneof which looks more like a spider web than a corridor—total more than 9,000 miles inlength(Table1).Inmostofthesecorridors,theFRAhassetatargettopspeedof110milesperhour.Whilethis is more than the 59- to 79-mile-per-hourcurrentlimitinmostcorridors,high-speedrailaficionados do not consider 110 miles perhour, or even 125 miles per hour, to be true“high-speed rail.” The California legislaturehasdefined
asraillineswithatopspeed greater than 125 miles per hour. “Thereason for the 125 miles per hour threshold,”says the California Senate TransportationCommittee, “is that existing passenger railequipment can operate at this speed if theappropriate signaling technology is installedand the right-of-way meets a variety of designandsafetystandards.”
Theproblemwithincreasingexistingtrackspeedsfrom79to110milesperhourormoreis that the rails in nearly all of these corridorsareprivatelyownedbyfreightrailroadssuchasBNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and UnionPacific.Nominally,therailroadswouldbenefitfrom such improvements, but since theirfreight trains would rarely need to go morethan 79 miles per hour—60 is more typical—they see no reason to help pay for the expen-sivesignalingandtrackmaintenancerequiredforthehigherspeeds.Moreover,araillinerun-ning both 110-mile-per-hour (or faster) pas-senger trains and 60-mile-per-hour freighttrains presents major operational problemsthatarenotwelcomedbythefreightrailroads. Although the FRA has designated thesecorridors, the actual work of planning thehigh-speed rail lines is done by the states.State planners have taken two differentapproachestorailservice.Insomecases,they haveconfinedtheirworktoimproving gradecrossings and keeping track of the up to 79-mile-per-hour standards or, in the Midwest,to boosting speeds on existing tracks to 110
High-speed railaficionadosdefine truehigh-speed rail asrail lines with atop speed greaterthan 125 milesper hour.