Perhaps the biggest knock on high speed rail in the United States is that it is currently anything but high speed. A Washington Monthly article from ten years ago, during the unveiling of the Acela line, mentions that the train only reaches its highest speed (150 MPH/250 KPH) once and “for a couple of minutes, on the flats on the Boston-New York leg; the rest of the time it floats along relatively prosaically under 100 miles an hour, something steam trains accomplished a century ago. The Acela Express only beats the old trains to New York because it makes fewer stops and doesn’t have to switch to diesel now that the line has been electrified all the way to Boston.”
According to a press release from Amtrak, the train operator began running high(er) speed tests last night and will continue to do so into next week. Amtrak will “operate high-speed test trains at 165 mph in four areas covering more than 100 miles of the Northeast Corridor. The tests in Maryland / Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are locations that may at some future time experience regular 160 mph service.”
The four stretches of rail being tested include:
- Perryville, Md. – Wilmington, Del. (21.3 miles)
- Trenton – New Brunswick, N.J. (22.9 miles)
- Westerly – Cranston, R.I. (29.2 miles)
- South Attleboro – Readville, Mass. (27.8 miles)
The Maryland to Delaware and New Jersey test sites have a current speed limit of 135 MPH and the Rhode Island and Massachusetts sections have a maximum speed of 150 MPH.
Funding from the federal government’s high-speed rail program is supporting the testing. Work on the project will take upwards of five years to complete.