Thursday, September 3, 2009

High Speed Rail and Louisville

I have been reading a lot lately about the potential high speed rail routes in the US. I paid particular attention the midwest plan. In the original plan Louisville was left out. However, due to some great internet heat provided by the Urbanophile (check his blog it's one the best I have ever read) and others Louisville was included. When you look at the map do you notice something?

Louisville is in a great geographical location to connect the Chicago/Midwest hub to the Atlanta/Chattanooga hubs. We are also in a great position to become a sort of mini hub. This is pretty cool stuff and should be a big win for the city. I'm not going to get into the details of the proposed high speed rail speeds and what really constitutes high speed rail. Well not now I wont. I will a little later. What I want to focus on is what is Louisville's take on high speed rail.

If you go to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association website and click on state proposals you will notice something. Kentucky is missing. That's right. Nada. The high speed rail lines are going to be built using 80% federal funds. We should be on this like white on rice. We should be very proactive in lobbying for HSR and how we want it operate in Louisville. We should also push for Louisville to be that mini hub I spoke about earlier. If nothing else we should at least make sure that we are mentioned in everybody else's study.

Now for the part about speed. I've seen some conflicting numbers so I'll go with the speed as posted on the MidWest HSR site. Right now Louisville is suppose to get the 110 MPH tracks. If we want to be that connector I talked about (If we are the connector hub/city that would also connect us to Nashville and Chattanooga) we need the 220MPH tracks. This would provide travel times from Louisville to Atlanta that are competitive with air travel, provide a fast connection with us and Nashville that is not currently served by airplanes, and provide trips from Indianapolis and most midwestern cities to Atlanta that would be either faster than air travel or very competitive with air travel.

I wonder if Kentucky isn't all over this because all of our state transportation funds are tied up in the bridges project? If we adopted 8664 we could not only pay for our 20% of high speed rail, but also add our first light-rail line as well. Hmmm.

I think with some aggressive lobbying and partnering with cities and states we need to connect with like Nashville we could get the fastest of the high speed rail lines. We could be that mini hub I talked about earlier. Union Station could once again be a fully functional passenger rail station. Our HSR line could connect to our light-rail line. If we get the mini hub we would need hotels and other amenities around Union Station. That should, in turn, bring economic development at least to the eastern half of the Russell neighborhood.

This is something that we should really push. maybe even more so than the bridges project.


  1. Great post. I have often used the words 'Louisville' and 'progressive' in the same sentence. Only problem is the word 'not' sits in between them just about every time. My first thought is how this effects UPS and what sway they may have in this issue. I love the idea of high speed rail, primarily, because I have a fear of flying! LOL! I could easily see hopping on the rail and heading up to Chi-town for a day or two or heading south around New Orleans on the spur of the moment...oh well, a guy can dream.

  2. I love your enthusiasm, but i think a Steetcar or Light Rail system should be Louisville's priority, it would help alleviate road traffic, especially downtown and allow for a nice supplement to the 8664 project.

  3. See Also: for more background on the speed debate. Myself, I would be dancing for joy at 90mph to Indy, which can be done for a fraction of the cost of 110mph, which is in turn about an eighth the cost of 200+mph! If gas is $8 a gallon, we won't care what speed the train is, we'll just be happy we have it.

    The problem with the 80/20 match idea is that the feds won't be able to supply their 80, at least not for the next 20 years at their current construction rate. Nashville-Loui-Indy-Chicago is a natural axis, true, but it's not going to get built before other higher-profile routes get built. Those corridors are denser and in some cases already have taken big steps forward on local funding. Realistically, Louisville will be in the second generation of HSR build-out, if we do really well.

    Louisville should also try like heck to get on the Cleveland-Columbus-Cinci corridor. Politically this may be easier because its (1) shorter and (2) the track can run through Kentucky.

    Union Station is a nice station, to be sure, but it was always a bit awkward to have the trains back out. I think we should shoot for a pull-through station in ... wait for the pandering ... wait for it ... the Russell Neighborhood. 14th and Main/Market would be my choice, but 8664 fans might pick another alignment :).

    Then we run a streetcar E-W on Main-Market from there to Baxter Avenue. Put frequent service on it - I mean FREQUENT - 7 minute headways and priority on the stop light syncronization. It would also help with the soon-to-be-cursed arena traffic. This would serve as a pedestrian accellerator, tying together, for example, all three big Humana buildings. Business Support: check.

    Eventually extend the Streetcar all the way to Shawnee Park and St Matthews. This would provide an incentive for Louisvillians to mingle across the boundaries they currently don't, and encourage massive investment along the corridor. And also it would obviously provide an ocean of parking for the High Speed Rail.