Future Intercity High Speed Rail Station thoughts

While we were on the subject of what to do with the Central Prison and the School for the Blind we can’t ignore the possibility that Raleigh will eventually host a station in the future that will be used to carry high speed trains. There’s a very good chance we will all be dead by the time that gets realized but we shouldn’t penalize future generations from moving the city forward.

Here’s the thing the Union Station Wye area is a terrible places for a high speed rail station. Modern High Speed Train load-outs like the London to Paris Eurostar are typically around 600 meters long. The wye is at best 250 meters long without spill-over in either direction. Awful for off-loading passengers without blocking other trains from using the tracks such as the rail cross over that happens just past the Boylan Bridge.

However, the distance between the Boylan Bridge and Ashe Ave Bridge is a very comfortable 1,000 meters give or take.

The Proposal: 1/4th of the property of the Central Prison and School for the Blind should be used house the Intercity High Speed Rail Station with a pedestrian bridge connecting passengers to the Raleigh Union Station that will function primarily for regional heavy rail and heavy commuter rail.

Options to consider: Grade separation at the Wye so that the the high speed lines go below the normal rail lines before the rail crossover happens and the High Speed Rail Terminals will be technically in the basement of the future train station.

The Second Proposal: Build an underground pedestrian tunnel from the Raleigh Union Station to Downtown Raleigh with moving walkways to assist people in getting to downtown quickly from the stations.

1/4th of the property is all that is needed to host 4 or 5 side by side terminals so that there’s enough room to host multiple high speed lines and this also leaves most of the Central Prison property to be used for other projects.

Thoughts?

Do you see future Raleigh citizens getting on a high speed train to: DC, Asheville, Charlotte, Wilmington, New York, Atlanta? Or will Raleigh miss a golden opportunity?

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The topic of high-speed rail makes the news from time to time as it did big time a few years back when the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor study was released. As planners so often do the design over-prioritized the immediate needs of the project to the detriment of all else.

For our downtown the SEHSR proposal was to close grade crossings at Jones and West St. so a sealed corridor for trains could be established. This idea is not as egregious as cutting an expressway through Oakwood but still it is quite bad! In principle I support a SEHSR corridor through downtown Raleigh but not at the expense of severing connectivity between important downtown districts.

If you are interested in the city’s response you can read that here. I hope the link works!

https://books.google.com/books?id=LrQ2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP119&lpg=PP119&dq=high+speed+rail+raleigh+lane+st.+closure&source=bl&ots=vHbHN5_sfe&sig=YtBiFCvxl9A9EvJJBv5YkWIgfiE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiortmvnpLdAhVEON8KHacmDFYQ6AEwCXoECAEQAQ#v=onepage&q=high%20speed%20rail%20raleigh%20lane%20st.%20closure&f=false

IMO I really want to see this built, though it will take decades to come online. Having used the TVGs to get all over France, I am hooked. I literally looked at taking AmTrak from Raleigh to Connecticut this week and the travel time was 22 hours EACH WAY. Are you kidding me?? I can do the drive in less than 10 (assuming DC/NYC/Philly traffic isn’t too awful). I will hand over my car keys in a heartbeat for rail (light rail, metro, commuter rail, high speed rail), but the US just doesn’t have the infrastructure that other (ahem European) countries has.

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Raleigh Union Station is the station for high speed rail. I believe the term “high speed rail” is somewhat misleading. Most people envision a bullet train similar to those in Japan or Europe. The closest we will likely get to that in our country is Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Pretty much everywhere else in the US, high speed rail is primarily about eliminating grade crossings and straightening out curves where possible. Right now, it takes about four hours to travel between Raleigh and Richmond. This is mostly due to the fact that the train’s route goes southeastward from Raleigh towards Selma before turning back to the northeast. The Southeast high speed rail corridor will utilize an unused CSX rail line from Petersburg, VA to Norlina NC and approach Raleigh from the north. If just the basic work to reactivate the line were performed, it would cut the time between Raleigh and Richmond to three hours. If all of the high speed rail improvements are implemented (eliminating road crossings, straightening curves, etc…). The time would be closer to two hours. That’s the gist of the “high speed rail” program.

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No, California is currently building theirs and already laid almost hundred miles of track down Central Valley and Texas is in the planning stages for their high speed line. Both will be similar to high speed trains found in Asia and Europe.

The vision you’re talking about is basically what the high speed system will look like in our lifetime yes but Raleigh in 2100 or 2200? What if the population of the eastern seaboard doesn’t peak in the next 100 years and keeps growing. Imagine a North Carolina that has a population of close to the current population of Australia. We should think about reserving that area for future public works projects.

Americans are incredible short-sighted when it comes to the future. The future is not 30 years from now, it’s the next 500 years.

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The project in California is largely unfunded and the Texas project is privately funded. It remains to be seen if either project will come to fruition. I agree that we need to start planning projects such as these as they will only become more expensive as time goes on. The flip side is that it is hard to justify spending a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there in projects that will save an hour here or an hour there. The price adds up quickly. The four billion dollar estimate for the SEHSR project does not envision bullet trains. That would cost even more.

If we are thinking that long term, our buildings aren’t even designed for that scope. Anything is possible in 50-100 years; we’re on the edge of the technological plunge point.

This is very relevant: https://youtu.be/mbEfzuCLoAQ

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Animals usually have this limiting factor called “carrying capacity.” Funny - humans don’t give af and will do anything to multiply and survive

@CanesFan I totally agree with the cost justification consideration, however, consider @Nickster’s comments about comparing driving vs train. While it’s more than just a time consideration, there’s a tipping point for each commuter where the time premium is worth it for the hands-free/carefree travel. For example, if the commute between Raleigh and Connecticut was 15 hours vs 22 hours, maybe that’s worth taking the train and we get considerably higher adoption of passengers, removing cars from the road. Maybe the cost consideration of improving the routes/trains is worth it at that point. Just a thought and certainly something a lot of research would be needed to uncover.

I agree 100% about making improvements that will shorten the travel time, improve reliability, and potentially decrease the amount of highway traffic. I’m a rail fan myself and would love to se the SEHSR come to fruition. I think if the travel times are improved so that taking the train is roughly equivalent to driving, a lot more people will consider taking the train.

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I agree: closure of those at-grade crossings should be a deal-breaker for bringing high-speed rail through the city.

Closing all at-grade crossing is in the works. That is something that has already been done to an extent between Raleigh and Charlotte and Wake County is committed to eventually closing all at-grade closing in the county eventually. Cabarrus St will be closed in the next decade and I’m sure all north side crossing will be studied to learn how to best make them grade-separated.

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From the original post by @Stew:
I support a SEHSR corridor through downtown Raleigh but not at the expense of severing connectivity between important downtown districts.

If this is the main reason why you’re against closing at-grade crossings, then they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can avoid having railroad crossings (and prevent at-crossing accidents, too), and still maintain connections between both sides of the track; just look at the proposed West St. extension, or any of the projects Francisco mentioned above.

As much as I like the idea of HSR, I would be fine with a good modern intercity rail system with frequent departures, on-time trains and reasonable timetables. Get me a train that runs from Raleigh to Charlotte in under 2 hours and Raleigh to DC in under 3.5. (That’s an average speed of about 85 mph, top speed would likely be around 115, I think).

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This might be a good time to point out that a “higher-speed rail” plan between Charlotte and DC via Raleigh and Richmond is already in the works. We’ve already shown with our taxes that it can be pulled off; we just need the funding and/or investment. See:

From the State DoT Website:
NCDOT is now working to identify funding sources for final design, land acquisitions, construction and service implementation.
The completion of [an environmental and market analysis published in 2017] has put the [Raleigh-Richmond rail corridor] on a firm footing to apply for federal funding or public-private partnerships, should either become available, and matching state funds can be identified.

From the study mentioned above:
[T]he [110mph-on-average] option on the [Southeast High Speed Rail corridor] will have more benefits than corridors that invest more public funds to achieve higher speeds.

The study basically says that reliable higher-speed rail is physically and financially possible by:

  • using a partly-abandoned CSX route
  • sealing as much of the route as possible (read: close rail crossings and try to replace them with bridges)
  • running the service to DC, at least from Charlotte (if not Atlanta)

…as long as we can scrap up enough money. 90-110mph trips on average makes the SEHSR travel time similar to driving -and that’s all that matters to bring in enough users. We don’t need to dilly-dally and dream about this; we’ve already shown we could pull this off if we felt like it.

Hell, when Raleigh Union Station was being designed, the SEHSR was already built in. Look at the “future concourse” outline in this older schematic of RUS Phase 1 (you can tell because the ticket/baggage areas are smaller and the pollinator garden is shaped differently); from the looks of this map, RUS already seems to be designed so that new intercity trains will stop at a new platform north of Hargett St.:

(This isn’t the first time someone has brought up the FEIS on this site… right??? Please tell me this isn’t the first time y’all have seen this.)

EDIT: …though if we could also have intercity rail to Asheville, Wilmington etc., statewide tourism would be a LOT easier and more fun, too. But let’s not turn this thread into a pointless echo chamber.

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I literally said why the north side was a terrible place for a high speed train for proper size. I guess they can cut down the carriages once they leave DC but even if the wye is used first for high speed we should hold onto a portion of the Central Prison area for future expansion.

Oh, when I read your post, I thought you were arguing against having trains literally ON the wye (I agree and think that would be dumb, too, but I guess I misunderstood you).

What I meant was that you could take the same logic for the Boylan/Ashe bridge idea and just turn it 90 degrees. There’s apparently about 550 meters of track between the northern vertex of that triangle and where the tracks branch off again near Jones St. I’m not a traffic or civil engineer, but if you change a little bit of the track layouts, I’d think you could still fit a longer platform there if you’re creative about it?

Here’s another illustration. I’m not sure if it is older or newer than the one posted above. It shows an 800 foot long platform starting at the very northern tip of the wye. This is the same length as the existing platform in use now, so there is no need for shorter trains, as the equipment that will be used is what union station currently sees. The only difference is that the SEHSR platform appears to be low-level in this rendereing.

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The original Tier I EIS for Southeast High Speed Rail (from 2002) which identified the high-level corridor from DC to Charlotte, actually suggested that the SEHSR platforms could be located in exactly the location you mention - west of Boylan Avenue, for more or less the same reasons you have given. At the time, however, it was assumed that the diamond where the Norfolk Southern line through Dix crosses the NCRR could be removed and replaced with a series of conventional turnouts. Norfolk Southern did not agree. No station west of Boylan is likely to be a possibility while that diamond is in place.

I do think it’s both desirable and technically feasible to have that diamond removed (and I have my own ideas of how to do this) but unless and until it’s done, there’s no possibility to put platforms there.

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I support SEHSR, but I’m realistic enough to recognize that it’s fantasy at present. The price tag for 110 mph between Raleigh and Petersburg is over $1 billion… just the earth moving and track construction, without counting rolling stock, a station or two along the route, or operating subsidy. That’s not happening anytime soon, perhaps not for 30-50 years.