Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keystone West High Speed Rail Study

Here is the outline for a recent (5/22/12) briefing by PennDOT as to the status for the Keystone West High Speed Rail Study:

Initial Work Order (1) and study initiated late Spring 2011.
     *  Initial work included prepartion of Worplan for FRA and approval.

Following Workplan approval, began development of Legislative Briefing Packet, website, and
Prior Studies Report.
     *  Legislative briefing packet distributed June 2011, a copy has been sent to Brent Sullivan.
     *  Developed link on "Plan the Keystone" website to update public on KWHSR efforts    
     *  Prior Studies effort included assessment of more than a dozen studies completed over last
         20 years to gather useful data.

Reached out to Amtrak and NS with initial meetings in 2011: April 25th and June 30th.

Drawing in large part on data drawn from Prior Stuies Report, updated with  current census data, etc., 
prepared "Project Purpose, Needs and Goals Report." Report concluded:
     *  Improved corridor mobility and access is supportable goal.
     *  Service and travel time disparities between Keystone West and Keystone East corridors merit
         attention and long term gap closure.
     *  Corridor has an extensive array of travel generators that bode well for market development.
     *  Phased improvements are necessary to support rail network connectivity (PA and beyond).
     *  Community and economic development can be bolstered through improved corridor access
         and travel alternatives.
     *  Transportation system redundancy is strategically important for the corridor and the Common-
     *  Pennsylvania's socio-demographics underscore need for a more multimodal approach to
         transportation planning and system development.
     *  Envionmental benefits of rail passenger transportation justify reasonable efforts to promote
         this mode.
     * A focus on improving existing  transportation assets is a pragmatic approach in an era of
        severe fiscal constraint.
     *  Freight-passenger challenges demand innovative methods and institutional cooperation.
     *  Pennsylvania must be prepared and be able to adapt to change (Marcellus Shale, technology,

Overall goals for the study include:
     *  Increase passenger train speeds and reduce travel times.
     *  Incrementally increase service frequency with ultimate goal of 8 round trips daily.
     *  Improve access and connectivity.
     *  Improve passenger rail amenities to complement other improvements.
     *  Establish effective institutional partnerships.

Based on identified needs and goals, began an analysis of alternative concepts to increase frequency and improve travel times along the corridor. Resulted in 4 alternative concepts described in Conceptual Alternative Paper:
     * Concept 1 - Operational improvements along the existing corridor and between Amtrak and NS
         and minimal infrastructures improvements generally within existing ROW. (Cost $0.5B).
     *  Concept 2 - Operational improvements with modest infrastructure improvements at key loca-
         tions along the corridor - includes new track and curve straightening at key locations.
         (Cost $1.0B).
     *  Concept 3 - Operational improvement along with major infrastructure improvements including
         an additional track the entire length of the corridor to provide for separated passenger service.
         ( Cost $1.5B).
     *  Concept 4 - New passenger only high speed rail line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh,
         generally following the Pennsylvania Turnpike or other major transportation corridor. (Cost

Report recommended further evaluation and assessment of Concepts 2 and 3 based on cost and potential for service improvement along corridor.

Initial work also included development of GIS base-mapping oc corridor showing key resources and constraints based on available secondary source data and a preliminary operations model to help support evaluation of alternative concepts.

Work Order 2 initiated November 2011 - primary focus is the Preliminary Service Development Plan (PSDP) and further exploration of Alternative Concepts 2 and 3 to build the "Menu of Options" for the final feasibility study.

Not unlike the Department's "Decade of Investment," our goal is to identify  decade (or some other timeframe to be determined) of improvements that can be implemented over time along the corridor that individually and collectively lead to meeting the goals discussed above.

Work Order 2 tasks expected to be completed in 3 - 4 months - includes update to legislative briefing packet and distribution, update to Plan the Keystone website, advancing  the PSDP through refinement of conceptual engineering, operational analysis and demand estimating, meeting with business and community leader in Altoona and initial efforts to outline the final Feasibility Report.

Work Order 3 (anticipated late Spring / Summer 2012) will provide for final assessment of alternatives, further enhancements to the PSDP, development of feasibility Report and outreach to legislative and community / public interests.

Current Issues of Concern:
NS resistance to any increase in passenger service along the corridor.

Potential loss of funding for Pennsylvania due to PRIIA 209 cost allocations.


  1. Due to the behavior of NS, concept 4 is better. It should go to State College, too.

    But everyone keeps cheaping out.


  2. Railex 5 day non-stop private coast-to-coast railway transport with state of the art quality controlled distribution centers and real-time GPS inventory tracking is the greener alternative to refrigerated trucking companies.