State Seeks Stimulus Funds to Study High-Speed Rail

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Aug. 24, 2009 12:00 am  

The Arkansas State Highway & Transportation Department is seeking $500,000 in federal stimulus money to study a high-speed rail route from Little Rock to Texarkana. It's part of a plan that ultimately would halve that five-hour drive from Little Rock to Dallas.

The track is part of a regional route that has been dubbed the South Central High-Speed Passenger Rail Corridor in President Barack Obama's High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan. Obama outlined his plans for a high-speed rail system in April. He compared his initiative to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's push for a nationwide interstate highway system in the 1950s, which transformed the United States.

Meanwhile, Texas has applied for grant money to study a route from Dallas to Texarkana, said Dan Flowers, director of the Arkansas Transportation Department.

The subject of the studies will be a segment of a freight line owned by Union Pacific. The National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as Amtrak, also uses that route, which it calls the Texas Eagle Route.

The track starts on the West Coast in Los Angeles, sweeps southeast through Arizona and New Mexico, dips down through Texas, then juts upward on its way to Illinois, running through Dallas, Texarkana and Little Rock along the way. Click here to view a map of the Arkansas route and a map of the Obama administration's High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan.

The Arkansas Transportation Department plans to match the $500,000 federal grant - assuming the department receives the stimulus cash - to fill a $1 million pool to fund the study.

Flowers said the applications for a cut of the $8 billion allocated to a high-speed rail system by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 were due Monday. The government received applications for grants totaling more than $102 billion, he said.

If - and that's evidently a big "if" - Arkansas' application is approved, Flowers said, he hopes that the department will get a check by late October.

The Study

Though the Texas Eagle is a passenger rail route as well as a freight route, the transportation departments of the states through which it runs have a lot of work to do to upgrade the route to accommodate a high-speed train.

Step one? Determining what that work is.

The study will analyze what upgrades must be performed on the track to safely accommodate a high-speed train.



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