A Great Train Robbery?

In a blog this past April we wrote about Pennsylvania’s efforts to get a piece of the money that would be recirculating due to the rejection of a rail project in Florida. Pennsylvania wanted to use the money to (yet again) improve the speed of travel between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. In early May the state got $40 million to dedicate to that corridor.

So what of the western half of the state? A PENNDOT study said "increasing service from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh is a logical progression to create a successful corridor linking most of Pennsylvania". But don’t look for travel time to be anything remotely like the connection in the eastern part of the state: right now a five hour trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg would be reduced to a four hour trip, and even that won’t happen in one fell swoop, but rather incrementally. One consultant at a meeting on Monday discussing the idea said "the likelihood of reaching 110 mph in this corridor is unlikely at this point…what we’re really talking about is higher-speed rail."

And again, it won’t be a far stretch to imagine that there will be recurring requests for money to make the "somewhat faster" connection happen.

Maglev, De-Railed

In announcing the release of some $26.4 million in Federal money to the Commonwealth for rail improvements, left at the station is the proposed high-speed Maglev project that would have connected Pittsburgh International Airport to Greensburg in Westmoreland County (passing through Downtown Pittsburgh). The project sought $2.3 billion, and received zero.

One could say that the writing was on the wall when the U.S. Secretary for Transportation noted in a visit to Pittsburgh that Maglev (in general) is "very expensive" and that the administration had more interest in developing high-speed rail. Sure, backers of Maglev here locally were awarded some $28 million in September to study the feasibility of the Airport link, which was originally estimated to cost $3.75 billion to link to Greensburg.

Pennsylvania did get the money it was seeking ($750,000) to study rail improvements between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, where AMTRAK service provides one daily trip (contract that with Harrisburg to Philadelphia service, which has 14 daily trips).

Who knows what this means for the experimental project that is Maglev, especially in western Pennsylvania. Maybe the transportation generosity was all used up on the North Shore Connector.