Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Alternative Approaches to High Speed Passenger Rail Development

High-speed rail (HSR) is a disruptive, paradigm-changing technology. It has the potential to transform travel habits, reduce emissions, reshape cities, and revitalize regional economies. However, these potential benefits are balanced by a range of costs, including the financial costs of upgraded infrastructure and vehicles, new types of environmental impacts, potential for suboptimal redistribution of economic activity, and conflict with freight rail providers. Given the recent interest in HSR among decision-makers at the United States federal and state levels of government, practitioners and academic researchers are engaged in studying potential impacts in order to emphasize the positive outcomes and mitigate the negative ones. This project will address one of the biggest obstacles facing high-speed passenger rail: sharing right-of-way with freight rail operators, who own the vast majority of the existing rail infrastructure in the U.S. Specifically, the researchers will develop and examine alternative approaches to deploying high-speed passenger services in shared corridors, including: making incremental improvements to existing freight railroads, building new passenger railroads in freight rights-of-way, and building entirely new systems in new rights-of-way for exclusive use by passenger trains. First, they will develop a framework for evaluation and implement it, using hypothetical corridors and synthetic data. Next, the researchers will collect data from domestic and international sources, in an effort to characterize the full range of costs and benefits. Finally, they will implement the framework for several U.S. corridors and test its performance against traditional alternatives analysis techniques. The researchers have assembled a broad team of international collaborators from related projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and elsewhere to provide input and critical feedback based on their experiences planning and deploying HSR systems, with the objective of producing research products that will inform the effective deployment of HSR in the U.S.


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Contract Numbers:



    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Research and Innovative Technology Administration

      Department of Transportation
      1200 New Jersey Avneue, SE
      Washington, DC  United States  20590
    • Principal Investigators:

      Sussman, Joseph

    • Start Date: 20100901
    • Expected Completion Date: 0
    • Actual Completion Date: 20120831
    • Source Data: RiP Project 29317

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01480741
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: New England University Transportation Center
    • Contract Numbers: DTRT07-G-0001, MITR23-7
    • Files: UTC, RiP
    • Created Date: May 7 2013 1:01AM