High-Speed Rail in Philadelphia? Stations and Tunnels

Post date: Aug 16, 2012 1:07:59 AM

Amtrak is beginning the conversation on how to gethigh-speed rail through center city Philadelphia, avoiding the circuitous routing now in place and ideally reaching the airport. Some of the controversies include whether to build a new station in the Market East area (replacing the historic 30th Street Station as the main hub) and whether it’s worth the money to build a 10-mile long tunnel through the city.

It’s great news that Amtrak is going straight at these issues. Some of my concerns:

· The current Market East Station works well for SEPTA’s regional rail, but is the idea to put high-speed rail there as well? The absolute worst outcome would be ending up with some sort of Vietcong tunnel complex like Penn Station in New York. Has anyone thought about Suburban Station as an option?

· It’s really important to consider the transit connections for high-speed rail. Most of the intersystem connections in Philadelphia work poorly. We need to make that better.

· Most importantly, I’m concerned about the Pennsylvania east-west connection, which no one in the state is actively pursuing. The 250-mile trip between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh now takes 7 hours and 23 minutes by train. The high-speed rail trip between Madrid and Barcelona, which is half again as far, takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. And they have mountains in Spain too! Imagine what high-speed rail would do in terms of effectively moving Pittsburgh closer to the Northeast Corridor and tying Pennsylvania together. Somehow a new north-south routing needs to be made to work with a new east-west routing.