- May 25, 2006
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Boston Herald - July 15, 2008
Sen. John F. Kerry rails at Acela
Pushes $1B in fixes to speed up train
By Hillary Chabot | Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | http://www.bostonherald.com | General Politics
U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry is taking aim at the Acela bullet train, saying the 8-year-old line meant to zip passengers between Boston and Washington is riddled with speed and safety issues that have thrown its swift mission off track.
?Are you kidding? That train can go 150 miles an hour, (but) it goes that for, what, a couple of miles?? Kerry scoffed. ?I want America to have a first-rate high-speed rail system. A high-speed rail that really lives up to the name and gets people there in the time that we ought to be aiming for.?
Kerry plans to file in two weeks a $1 billion bill that will target out-of-date bridges, tunnels and tracks that prevent the train from hitting its 150-mile-per-hour maximum and getting commuters to their destinations faster.
?The point is, it could be significantly shorter,? Kerry said of the commute between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Currently the Acela train takes about 3 hours to get to New York, while a bus ride takes about four hours.
The train only hits its top speed of 150 miles an hour for about 18 miles in Massachusetts and Providence.
?You know why it can?t go 150 under Baltimore? Because it shakes the tunnel and it?s unsafe for the city. You can?t go over the bridges because they?re unsafe because we haven?t rebuilt them for high speed,? Kerry said in a meeting with Herald reporters and editors.
Frank Hornig, a New York resident hopping on the 3:15 p.m. Acela in Boston yesterday, said, ?It?s too slow. From here to New York should take two hours or less.?
Hornig, who said he?s ridden high-speed trains in Germany that put the Acela to shame, added, ?They really should invest more in the public transportation system here.?
While Amtrak took in more than $1.4 billion in federal funds last year, the curvature of the railroad tracks continues to be the main reason for the Acela?s low speed in the northeast, said Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero.
Straightening the tracks along the heavily developed eastern rail would trigger many eminent domain takings, however.
?The price would probably be exorbitant,? Romero said about the number of land takings.
Modernizing bridges and other infrastructure may increase the speed by 10 to 15 miles an hour, said Romero, but probably still would not bring the line to top speed, despite Kerry?s remarks.
Kerry?s bill would give power to either a state or a compact of states to improve the rails, so decisions on eminent domain would be made at the state or local level.
Kerry said his bill targeting the portions of the out-of-date Acela line could make the rail competitive with high-speed trains around the world.
?We could really compete in a major way and draw a lot more ridership if we were able to get the capital investment in place,? Kerry said. ?You can go to Shanghai and ride a Maglev (train) that goes from the airport to downtown in 12 minutes.?
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/politics/general/view.bg?articleid=1107096