Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making the Connection

Yesterday's big news in the transportation world came out of China. A new link in that country's high-speed rail line launched with service between Shanghai and Hangzhou that zips passengers along the 125-mile trip in only 45 minutes.

The top speed? 245 miles per hour.

Check out this report on the line courtesy of Reuters:

On Monday, we also learned that Florida's own high-speed rail effort is getting another $800 million boost from the federal government. Read more on the new federal grant here.

While it may not be exactly on par with the 245-mph behemoth in China, high-speed rail is certainly coming to Tampa Bay. Will we be ready?

Laying the Groundwork for Regional Connections
In case you're still sketchy on the difference between the state's high-speed rail project and Hillsborough County's own proposed light rail system, here's a quick overview.

High-speed rail is, well, rail transit that travels at a high rate of speed. The official definition is a rail line that travels more than 110 mph. Florida's high-speed rail system has received funding from the federal government and is being planned and built by the Florida High-Speed Rail Enterprise, an agency of the State of Florida. No local funding will go into the high-speed rail effort.

The light rail project HART has recommended as part of the Alternatives Analysis study will travel much shorter distances and at more moderate speeds. Although HART is seeking federal funding for the project, a local funding source is also necessary.

Still not quite clear? Get more details on the difference between high-speed and light rail from HART's website, here.

Part of HART's recent work on the Alternatives Analysis and the Rapid Transit Investment Plan has focused on future regional connections, including the high-speed rail line.

One factor in the plans is the fact that the new high-speed rail station is planned for the north end of downtown Tampa, adjacent to HART's Marion Transit Center. If Hillsborough County goes forward with a light rail project, it will also feed into what would become a hub for transportation in the downtown area.

Here's more information on the downtown station as presented at a recent HART open house:

High Speed Rail Station / Intermodal Hub
  • Tampa High Speed Rail Station will be a major intermodal hub
  • Downtown alignment is affected by HSR track alignment and station
  • Station level (1st floor or 2nd floor) for HART project
  • Primary access options into the HSR Station from I-275 are Florida Avenue and
    Nebraska Avenue
  • Coordination with FDOT continues as they update alternatives for the Downtown Access and I-4/I-275 Interchanges
HART continues to work with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida High-Speed Rail Enterprise, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and other agencies on coordinating the many transit choices coming our way.

In the meantime, can you imagine what it would be like to travel at 245 miles per hour? For now, it seems only commuters in China and race car drivers know for sure.

For more on HART's Alternatives Analysis, click here.

To learn more about the Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

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