State Seeks Stimulus Funds to Study High-Speed Rail

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

The department would then request proposals from the qualified firms, review the submitted proposals and negotiate a contract.

Flowers said that negotiating, instead of bidding, is a federal requirement.

The selection process could take several months, Flowers said. After the firm was selected, the study should take between 12 and 18 months, he added.

Flowers said the Federal Rail Administration would conduct a feasibility study on extending the route from Little Rock to Memphis.

The route would either continue up to Bald Knob and then over to Memphis or down to Pine Bluff and then across to Memphis. Rail lines already exist in these areas.

The state Transportation Department's study will focus only on the Texarkana-Little Rock route.

Need for Speed

Because the high-speed rail system in this country is in the early stages, officials generally decline to speculate about the impact the incipient industry will have on employment. The administration has indicated that manufacturing should see a boost from a high-speed rail system, which should also create a number of new operating positions.

However, the environmental impact is not unknown.
The Center for Clean Air Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology conducted a study in 2006 that indicates that a high-speed rail system would substantially reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

The study concluded that by the 2025, passengers would take 112 million trips on high-speed rail that year, traveling more than 25 billion miles. That would result in 29 million fewer automobile trips and nearly 500,000 fewer flights. At that rate, the country could expect total emission savings of 6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

"It is a major emphasis of the [Obama] administration to develop a high-speed rail system in the country," Flowers said. "And I think you'll see a lot of emphasis on it in the next few years."



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