mtuandrew wrote:For that matter, for a price there could be a full Trans-Tennessee Express from Bristol through Knoxville, then straight across to Nashville and Memphis. So far though, not even NARP has that on their radar.
"You can't get there from here." If the old Tennessee Central isn't ripped out yet it's a ten mile-an-hour branch that potentially has trees growing between the ties by now in spots. Any train across the state would need to take a lengthy dogleg down through Chattanooga to go west of Knoxville.
At some point in time, if the country is really serious about passenger rail, we are going to have to acknowledge the fact that these old rights of way are going to need some significant upgrades. Not just some brush clearing and new hardware, but some serious re-engineering that would include straightening, tunnels, bridges, trestles, and grade separations. I just read the 2006 Missouri Department Transportation requested feasibility study of the St. Louis to Springfield, MO (and Branson area). Because the current right of way goes through the northern Ozark hills (BNSF...the former Frisco line), the average speed would be something just above 40 mph for the 200 mile route....not very attractive. This line is a good example of what exists all across the US. These routes were built in the late 19th, early 20th century, with only minimal upgrades since.
For rail travel to be taken seriously, we need to undertake the building of rail infrastructure that rivals what we did with the interstate highway system. It seems to me that not only would this benefit passenger rail, but would also increase the efficiency of freight movement. Obviously, if we are rebuilding rights of way, it would be foolish to not include separate capacity for freight. To me, there is little doubt that existing rights of way can be utilized much of the time, but in places like Virginia, Tennessee or the Ozarks, the notion that 30 mph speeds are acceptable should be dismissed out of hand. We have long had the technology to build tunnels.....modern tunnels can be built relatively quickly and efficiently. It would be comparable to going to the moon.