Plans for high-speed rail in the United States date back to the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965. Various state and federal proposals have followed. Despite being one of the world's first countries to get high-speed trains (the Metroliner service in 1969), it failed to spread. Definitions of what constitutes high-speed rail vary, including a range of speeds over 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) and dedicated rail lines. Inter-city rail in the United States with top speeds of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) or more but below 125 mph (201 km/h) is sometimes referred to as higher-speed rail.
Amtrak's Acela Express (reaching 150 mph (240 km/h)), Northeast Regional, Keystone Service, and certain MARC Penn Line express trains (the three services reaching 125 mph (201 km/h)) are the only high-speed services in the country according to American standards, but elsewhere in the world "high speed" means services at or above 250 km/h (160 mph).
As of 2017, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working on the California High Speed Rail project and construction is under way on sections traversing the Central Valley. Phase I is planned for completion in 2029, and Phase II is estimated to be completed before 2040.
Authorities in the United States maintain various definitions of high-speed rail. The definitions range from rail services with top speeds of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) to 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) or higher by the United States Department of Transportation which is an entity in the executive branch, while the United States Code, which is the official codification of Federal statutes, defines them as the rail services with "reasonably expected to reach sustained speeds of more than 125 miles per hour". A legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, used different terms to clarify the confusion by defining the rail services with top speeds less than 150 mph (240 km/h) to be higher-speed rail. There is no current train service in the United States which meets all of the domestic criteria for high-speed rail. Amtrak's Acela Express is classified as "higher-speed rail" in the Congressional Research Service report by virtue of being on shared tracks, whereas page 5 of that report also requires dedicated tracks to be classified as "very high speed rail".
In China, high speed rail is officially defined as "newly-built passenger-dedicated rail lines designed for electrical multiple unit (EMU) train sets traveling at not less than 250 km/h (155 mph) (including lines with reserved capacity for upgrade to the 250 km/h standard), on which initial service operate at not less than 200 km/h (124 mph)."
In Europe the definition of a minimum speed for newly built high-speed railways is 250 km/h (160 mph); for upgraded high-speed railways it is 200 km/h (120 mph). In places where high-speed rail programs are in earlier developmental stages or where substantial speed increases are achieved by upgrading current infrastructure and/or introducing more advanced trains, lower minimum speed definitions of high-speed rail are used. Directive 2008/57/EC defines high-speed rail in terms of speeds of the order of 200 km/h (120 mph) for existing, upgraded lines, and 250 km/h (160 mph) for lines specially built for high-speed travel. This is the case in the United States. For transportation planning purposes focussing on the development of high-speed rail, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) distinguishes four types of intercity passenger rail corridors:
However, state-level departments of transportation and council of governments may also use different definitions for high-speed rail. For examples, the North Central Texas Council of Governments uses the definition of the speeds over 150 mph (240 km/h), and the Texas Department of Transportation and Oklahoma Department of Transportation use the speeds of 165 mph (266 km/h) or more. These agencies have a separate category for higher-speed rail which can be a wide range of speeds between 80 mph (130 km/h) and 150 mph (240 km/h).
The development of the American rail network during the 19th century created structural impediments to the adoption of high-speed rail in the later half of the 20th that were not present in Europe and Asia. Freight on American railroads had to travel vastly longer distances, so railroads developed longer cars that could be joined into longer trains. In contrast to Europe, these freights traveled past very few older buildings that were at risk of structural damage from vibrations created by heavy passing trains (even today, American freight cars and their contents may be as heavy as 286,000 lb (130,000 kg), while their European counterparts are limited to 190,000 lb (86,000 kg)).
With such long and heavy freights often sharing the same tracks as passenger trains, it was necessary to require that passenger cars be able to withstand the higher impact forces of a potential collision with those freights. Axial strength standards, first required for the mail cars where clerks worked sorting mail en route and later applied to passenger cars, require that an American passenger car be able to withstand 800,000 pounds-force (3,600 kN) applied to either end, as opposed to the 450,000 lbf (2,000 kN) European regulations mandate. This necessarily results in American passenger cars being made of heavier materials.
During the period from 1900 to 1941, most long-distance travel was by rail in the United States. Rail transportation was not high-speed by modern standards but inter-city travel often averaged speeds between 40 and 65 miles per hour (64 and 105 km/h). Most of the major railroads had faster than normal trains called "express" or "limited" on their mainline routes (e.g. the Empire State Express and the 20th Century Limited) between major towns and cities.
The development of faster trains, however, faced indirect regulatory hurdles. After a 1921 crash at Porter, Indiana, in which a derail failed to stop one passenger train that had already passed through two red lights from crashing into another at a level junction, killing 37, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered almost a hundred railroads to install automatic train stops by the end of 1925. The railroads opposed the ICC vigorously, noting that stopping longer freights that way might lead to derailments. As a result, the requirement was revised to allow waivers for certain lines, and rarely enforced as the debate continued without any real resolution over the next two decades; in the meantime passenger fatalities began declining as the automobile emerged as a transportation option.
During the 1930s railroads began to develop lightweight, diesel-powered streamlined trains which provided even faster running times than the previous express trains. Two early streamliners were the Union Pacific M-10000 (nicknamed Little Zip and The City of Salina) in revenue service between 1934 and 1941/42 and the Burlington Railroad's Zephyr. The design of the Zephyr incorporated a diesel-electric power system; the M-10000 used a spark-ignition engine running on "petroleum distillate", a fuel similar to kerosene. These trains were much lighter than the common engines and passenger cars of the day, as the "Zephyr" was constructed using stainless steel and the M-10000 chiefly of the aircraft alloy Duralumin.
On May 26, 1934, the Zephyr made a record-breaking "Dawn to Dusk" run from Denver to Chicago. The train covered the distance in 13 hours, reaching a top speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h) and running at an average speed of 77.6 mph (124.9 km/h). However the railroad was unable to capitalize on this since the Depression had cut into the demand for intercity rail travel.
Many steam locomotives were streamlined during this time to attract passengers, and the first steam streamlined locomotive was the New York Central's Commodore Vanderbilt. Nonetheless, some of these steam locomotives became very fast: some were said to exceed 120 mph (190 km/h) on a regular basis. Examples include the New York Central's "Super Hudsons" as used on the Twentieth Century Limited; the Milwaukee Road's purpose-built Atlantics and Hudsons used in Hiawatha service; the Pennsylvania Railroad's duplex-drive 4-4-4-4 type T1 locomotives, and two Union Pacific engines, a 4-6-2 and a 4-8-2, used on the "Forty Niner" and other trains.
The debate over signaling and train control between the railroads and the ICC had never really been settled, just deferred as passenger deaths declined, in part due to more travelers using their automobiles for shorter commutes and an expanding and improving highway network. It ended in 1946, when one express passenger train crashed into another one that had stopped, both operated by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, in Naperville, Illinois. The conductor of the first train had had it stopped in the town outside Chicago because he thought something was dragging; within two minutes it was struck from behind by another traveling at 86 mph (138 km/h), killing 45.
The engineer of the second train survived the crash, and claimed he had not seen the signal in sufficient time to stop his train. Investigation showed that even if he had missed the yellow light going on, warning him to slow down in anticipation of a red, he still had space to stop the train had he applied his full brakes at the red. As a result, the ICC decided the time had come to force the issue of train control.
For the first time it set national rail speed limits. In 1947 it ordered that automatic block signaling be used where freight traveled at more than 49 mph (79 km/h) and on passenger lines where trains went faster than 59 mph (95 km/h). This rule remains in force today.
While the railroads generally complied with this rule, affecting 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of track, they were not as tolerant of the ICC"s additional requirement for ATS or cab signalling on passenger trains that exceeded 79 mph (127 km/h). Some railroads complied with the equipment requirement in part, and installed it on about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of track. This was what the ICC had hoped for. But on the other 22,000 miles (35,000 km) where the rule applied, railroads simply ran their trains under the limit. This made intercity passenger rail an even less competitive option, accelerating its decline as not only automobile use was increasing but airlines were beginning to compete on longer routes. By the late 1950s many passenger routes that had existed at the time of the Naperville crash had been discontinued.
The results of World War II shifted further high-speed rail technological development overseas. While the U.S. had not suffered the infrastructure damage it had inflicted on Europe and Japan, it had also developed its road network, leading to the creation of the Interstate Highway System after the war, giving prosperous citizens an efficient way to use the cars they were buying. Europe and Japan, by contrast, had largely not begun to build highway networks and had seen heavy damage to their rail systems. With their citizens impoverished as they rebuilt their economies, and unable to afford automobiles to the extent Americans could, those countries invested in rail as the primary means of intercity travel.
Following the creation of Japan's first high-speed Shinkansen, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson asked the U.S. Congress to devise a way to increase speeds on American railroads. The request was part of his Great Society infrastructure building initiatives. Congress delivered the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 which passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. It helped to create regular Metroliner service between New York City and Washington, D.C. inaugurated in 1969. Trains on the line reached speeds of 125 mph (201 km/h) and averaged 90 mph (140 km/h) along the route, faster than even Acela Express trains operated between the cities of New York and Washington in 2012. The Metroliner was able to travel from New York to Washington in just 2.5 hours because it did not make any intermediate stops.
U.S. federal and state governments continued to revisit the idea of fast trains. The Passenger Railroad Rebuilding Act of 1980 led to funding of high-speed corridor studies in 1984. Private-sector consortia intending to build high-speed lines were created in Florida, Ohio, Texas, California, and Nevada. Maglev trains became a new field of interest. They were officially added to the definition of "railroad" in 1988, and were studied repeatedly. Five high-speed corridors were officially endorsed in October 1992 following passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. TEA-21 and other legislation continued to be passed with mentions of high-speed rail, but lacking funding or real direction. Nevertheless, no new high-speed service was added to the U.S. passenger rail system following the Metroliners.
In 1993, the U.S. attempted to improve service between Boston and New York by electrifying the Northeast Corridor north of New Haven, Connecticut and purchasing new train sets to replace the by then 30-year-old Metroliners and run on the newly electrified route. Some existing trains (Swedish X 2000 and German ICE 1) were tested, but finally, the "Acela", a new tilting train manufactured by Alstom and Bombardier, was ordered.
The new service was named Acela Express and ran on the Northeast Corridor, linking Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The service was inaugurated in December 2000, and was an immediate success, operated at a profit and as of 2012, it produced about 25% of Amtrak's total service revenue. The Acela lacks a dedicated high-speed rail line which limits its average speed, although it reaches a maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) on small sections of its route through Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
The travel time between Washington and New York is 2 hours and 53 minutes (compared to 2 hours and 30 minutes for PRR's nonstop Metroliner in 1969), or an average speed of 79 mph (127 km/h). Schedule between New York and Boston is 3 hours 34 minutes, an average speed of only 63 mph (101 km/h). With a 15-minute layover in New York, the entire end-to-end trip averages 68 mph (109 km/h).
The largest project for American high-speed rail is the California High-Speed Rail network, which was authorized by voters with Proposition 1A in 2008. In August 2013, Tutor Perini signed a $1-billion contract to begin construction of the first phase in 2014. Construction began in early 2015. In May 2019, President Donald Trump canceled major federal grants which funded the project, worth approximately $929 million US dollars.
High-speed rail development was a goal of the Obama administration which came into office in January 2009. Higher jet fuel prices, congested airports and highways, and increasing airport security rules have combined to make high-speed rail a more attractive option for passengers. A study conducted by the International Union of Railways indicated that high-speed trains produced five times less CO2 than automobiles and jet aircraft.
In 2012, then-Amtrak president Joseph Boardman proposed a plan to build a dedicated high-speed rail line between Washington, D.C. and Boston. He estimated it would cost $151 billion and take more than 25 years to design and build the line. The proposed rail line would allow for top speeds of 220 mph (354 km/h).
Amtrak officials released a concept report for next-generation high-speed rail within the Northeast Corridor (NEC) on October 1, 2010. Amtrak projected planning and construction of the next-generation high-speed Northeast Corridor line will cost approximately $117 billion (2010 dollars) and reduce the travel time from New York to Washington, including a stop in Philadelphia, to 96 minutes, and the travel time from Boston to New York to 84 minutes by 2040. In 2012, Amtrak released the details of the proposal.
The first of two phases envisions the NEC's to be upgraded allowing Acela Express speed improvements. By 2022, Acela trainsets will be replaced with new trainsets, named Avelia Liberty. The new trainsets will be limited to the maximum speed supported by the NEC. The second phase will begin and new track, stations and systems will be constructed separately from the NEC network. The construction will start on the New York to Washington, D.C. segment first which will be completed in 2030. By 2040, the construction of the dedicated network for the New York to Boston segment will be completed. At that time, the oldest 12 trains will be retired and 14 new ones will be deployed increasing the total capacity to 46. This is projected to cut the travel time from Boston to Washington, D.C. to 3 hours and 8 minutes. The entire initiative is expected to cost $151 billion (2012 dollars).
The concept proposes 220 mph (350 km/h) trains running on dedicated tracks between Washington, D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts which will closely follow the existing Northeast Corridor south of New York City.
A number of different routes will be studied north of New York City, including one through interior Connecticut paralleling Interstates 684, 84, and 90, one following the existing shoreline route paralleling Interstate 95 and one via Long Island (requiring a bridge or tunnel across Long Island Sound to Connecticut). Another possible route could follow the existing NEC and I-95 from New York to New Haven, Connecticut, then turn north and follow I-91 to either Hartford or Springfield, Massachusetts before turning east or northeast toward Boston. 
The current NEC network would be used for non-high-speed passenger rail and freight services.
In 2012, the Northeast Maglev, a small firm in Washington, D.C. with backing from the Central Japan Railway Company, proposed a new high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor with initial service between Washington, DC and New York City and they have spent $1.4 million lobbying Congress. The proposal calls for the use of maglev technology which will require infrastructure separate from the Amtrak's NEC networks. The company proposes to deploy the JR-Maglev trains on a service from Washington, D.C. to New York City with a travel time of 60 minutes. Previous proposals of deploying maglev in the area have stalled due to lack of funding and legislative support. In November 2015, the Federal Railroad Administration approved a grant of $27.8 million to Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Economic Development Corporation to conduct studies on building a high-speed Maglev line that would carry passengers between Washington and Baltimore.
In February 2011, Amtrak announced plans for the Gateway Project, an 11-mile (18 km) high-speed right of way across the Meadowlands, the Hudson Palisades, and the Hudson River, between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. In November 2011, US Congress allocated $15 million for engineering work on the project. It remains unclear how much preliminary work done for the somewhat similar cancelled ARC project will be utilized.
On August 24, 2011, the United States Department of Transportation obligated $450 million to a six-year project to support capacity increases on one of the busiest segments on the NEC, a 24 miles (39 km) section in New Jersey between New Brunswick and Trenton. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems, and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability and increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and after the purchase of new equipment, up to 186 mph (299 km/h). Work is being done in coordination with New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, which is redeveloping Amtrak's County Yard and building the Mid Line Loop. The improvements were scheduled to be completed in 2016, but have been delayed; the project is now scheduled to be finished in 2019. This section of track holds the record for the highest speed by a train in the US, which is 170.8 mph (274.9 km/h), achieved in a test run by the U.S./Canada-built UAC TurboTrain on December 20, 1967.
New York State has been actively discussing high-speed rail service since the 1990s, but thus far little progress has been made. Amtrak Acela service between Washington, D.C. and Boston is available to New York City, but cities in Upstate New York and Western New York remain isolated from high-speed rail service. Further, destinations outside the New York metropolitan area have been plagued by delayed service for decades. Nonetheless, New York has been quietly endorsing and even implementing rail improvements for years.
Closer and faster railroad transportation links between New York City and the rest of the state are frequently cited as a partial solution to Upstate's stagnant economic growth.
Beginning in 2010, a study conducted by the New York State Department of Transportation identified 10 alternatives for improving the Empire Corridor. In early 2014, a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released for public review and comments. The draft eliminated 5 of the alternatives, including those with top speeds of 160 mph (257 km/h) and 220 mph (354 km/h). The remaining 5 build alternatives under consideration have top speeds of 79 mph (127 km/h) (the base alternative), 90 mph (145 km/h) (options A and B), 110 mph (177 km/h), and 125 mph (201 km/h).
The Keystone Corridor is a 349-mile (562 km) rail corridor between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, composed of two different rail lines, the Amtrak Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line and the Norfolk Southern Pittsburgh Line. Between Philadelphia and Harrisburg the Amtrak line is electrified and grade separation was completed in 2014. Between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh the Norfolk Southern owned line is used for freight transportation. In 1999, the Keystone Corridor was formally recognized as a "designated high-speed corridor" by the Federal Railroad Administration. The line, over which Amtrak's Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service routes operate, was upgraded in 2006 with two segments of 110 mph (180 km/h) track. These trains are higher-speed rail services between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, with express service taking 95–100 minutes over 103.6 miles (166.7 km).
California Proposition 1A, passed in November 2008, authorized the state to issue $9.95 billion in bonds to fund the first phase of a planned multi-phase high-speed rail network. Conventional steel-wheel on rail technology is the adopted mode with trains traveling at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). Los Angeles to San Francisco via the Central Valley was expected to be the first phase of the network, though the initial operating segments have since become unclear. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CSHRA) is the lead agency charged with planning and implementing the system. The state was awarded $2.55 billion in funding from the federal government in 2010.
Since the passage of Proposition 1A, cost estimates for the project have risen due to increased planning and disputes over routes. Ridership projections have faced scrutiny by a number of groups including UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies. In May 2013, with cost estimates double the original figures approved by the voters in 2008, opponents filed lawsuits intended to invalidate the $10 billion bond measures which were part of the financing of the rail line.
By December 2018, the Authority had 119 miles (192 km) of right-of-way from Madera to near Bakersfield under contract and in construction. However, the estimated cost of a now scaled down system had swelled from $39 Billion to $100 Billion and, including federal funding, the California High-Speed Rail Authority had only about $12.7 billion - approximately one-eighth of the funding required.  Governor-elect Gavin Newsom has still expressed support for the project despite the funding shortfall, reduced scope, and swelling costs.
The Pacific Northwest Corridor or the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor is one of eleven federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States. It was designated a high-speed rail by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). Improvements proposed in Washington State's long range plan would have had passenger trains operating at a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) on line.
As of 2012, neither the Washington State Department of Transportation  nor Oregon plan to implement speeds higher than 79 mph (127 km/h) due to safety and other freight service concerns voiced by the track owner, Union Pacific Railroad. The plan to provide high-speed and higher-speed rail services on this corridor was thus halted.
In early 2018, Washington State pledged money to studying ultra-high speed rail between Vancouver BC, Seattle, and Portland. After a preliminary study, the state pledged $300,000 in funding and was shortly backed by British Columbia. The study is estimated to be completed by early 2019. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has expressed his desire to see a Cascadia innovation corridor, linking together the main economic centers of the Pacific Northwest.
Development of a high-speed rail system in Florida was mandated by a constitutional referendum in 2000, but taken off the books by another referendum in 2004. Florida resurrected its high-speed rail authority to capitalize on the nationwide effort to build a high-speed rail network. Florida legislature approved SunRail in a special session in late 2009, which along with work already completed on the originally proposed line between Tampa and Orlando, was instrumental in the state winning a significant amount of the total amount allotted to high-speed rail. Only California received more high-speed rail funding than Florida. In February 2011, Florida's newly elected governor Rick Scott cancelled the project. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood then announced he would be redirecting the funds intended for Florida to other states.
In 2012, a plan for a 240-mile (390 km) high-speed rail from Miami to Orlando to be operated by a privately owned developer was announced. The plan, called All Aboard Florida, included a 40-mile (64 km) segment between Cocoa and Orlando with a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h). The plan was later renamed Brightline, and began service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on January 13, 2018, although at speeds up to 79 mph (127 km/h). In May 2018, Brightline began service from Fort Lauderdale to Miami at 110 mph (177 km/h). It was renamed Virgin Trains USA in 2019. By 2021, it will begin service to Orlando at 125 mph (201 km/h), legally classifying it as a high-speed rail service.
The Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is a passenger rail transportation project to extend high-speed passenger rail services from Washington, D.C. south through Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia through Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina and connect with the existing high-speed rail corridor from DC to Boston, Massachusetts known as the Northeast Corridor. Since first established in 1992, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has since extended the corridor to Atlanta and Macon, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Birmingham, Alabama.
Incremental rail improvements to existing rail lines have been taking place while the environmental impact study required under the National Environmental Policy Act is being completed. The two-tiered EIS began in 1999, and completion is expected in 2011, with passenger service expected by 2015 to 2020, depending upon funding availability.
In 1991 the Texas High Speed Rail Authority awarded a 50-year high-speed rail franchise to the Texas TGV Corporation — a consortium of Morrison Knudsen (USA), Bombardier (Canada), Alstom (France/UK), Crédit Lyonnais (France), Banque IndoSuez (France), Merrill Lynch (USA), and others. Texas TGV won the franchise after more than two years of litigation instigated by a rival consortium backing German ICE technology.
The plan was to connect the "Texas Triangle" (Houston − Dallas/Fort Worth − San Antonio) with a privately financed high-speed train system which would quickly take passengers from one city to the next at prices designed to compete with or beat other transport options. This was the same model Southwest Airlines used 20 years earlier to break into the Texas market where it served the same three cities.
Funding for the project was to come entirely from private sources, since Texas did not allow the use of public money. The original estimated cost was $5.6 billion, but the task of securing the necessary private funds proved extremely difficult.
Southwest Airlines, with the help of lobbyists, created legal barriers to prohibit the consortium from moving forward and the entire project was eventually scuttled in 1994, when the State of Texas withdrew the franchise. Several hotel chains like Days Inn, Best Western, and La Quinta Inn, as well as fast food establishments like McDonald's and Burger King lobbied against the plan, primarily because many of their locations were located along Interstates and in several highway-dependent rural towns.
Another proposal for high-speed rail in Texas was part of a larger proposed, statewide super-infrastructure, the Trans-Texas Corridor. In 2002, Governor Rick Perry proposed the project, but it was eventually canceled by the legislature in 2009.
In 2002, the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation (THSRTC), a grass roots organization dedicated to bringing high-speed rail to Texas was established. In 2006, American Airlines and Continental Airlines formally joined THSRTC, in an effort to bring high-speed rail to Texas as a passenger collector system for the airlines. The Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation developed the Texas T-Bone and Brazos Express corridors to link Central Texas.
In 2010, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) received a federal grant to study a high-speed rail corridor linking Oklahoma City with Dallas–Fort Worth. The state also received another grant in 2011 to start engineering and environmental work on a high-speed link between Houston and Dallas. Another study was being conducted in 2012 by TxDOT on a possible link between Houston and Austin.
While the preliminary work was in progress by TxDOT for the Houston to Dallas line, an unrelated project to build a high-speed railway between the two cities was announced in 2011 by a private company, Lone Star High Speed Rail. The company was founded in 2009 by U.S. Japan High Speed Rail to market the use of N700-I bullet train in Texas. In 2012, the company with a new name, Texas Central Railway Company, announced that Central Japan Railway Company signed up to be the primary investor in the project with the total estimated cost of $10 billion to be privately funded. The preliminary engineering, market and financing studies have been started for the service with maximum speed of 205 miles per hour and travel time of 90 minutes. The plan was to seek additional investors in late 2012, start the construction in 2014, and begin the service in 2024.
The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative or Midwest Regional Rail System (MRRI, MWRRI, or MWRRS) is a plan to implement a 220 mph (354 km/h) to 110 mph (177 km/h) passenger rail network in the Midwestern United States, using Chicago, Illinois as a hub. Primary routes would stretch across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, possibly reaching Kentucky. Secondary routes would operate at a slower speed across Missouri and Iowa, just touching Nebraska and nearly reaching Kansas. With some upgrades already completed, trains regularly travel at 110 mph (177 km/h) for a significant distance in Michigan and for a short distance in Illinois.
Construction to provide higher-speed rail services between Chicago and St. Louis is taking place. Illinois has been one of the most aggressive at pursuing highspeed rail, getting $1.1 billion in 2010. Governor Quinn said that "we want to make this corridor the pre-eminent one in America". The Chicago–St. Louis rail line is being upgraded so passenger trains will be able to reach top speeds of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) between Carlinville, Illinois and Joliet, Illinois, with work scheduled to be completed in 2017. Plans have been such that they originated from the southern part of the state going up north. The first installment of funds provided for construction between Alton and Lincoln. In March 2011, the next installment of funds ($685 million) provided for another section to go from Lincoln to Dwight. In May 2011, additional funds got allocated for further construction between Dwight and Joliet.
In June 2011, Illinois commenced a study on implementing a 220 mph service between Chicago and Champaign-Urbana. Legislation passed in 2013 gives the Illinois Tollway the power to build high-speed rail lines. Plans called for eventually investing in true high-speed travel that would boost train speeds to 220 mph (354 km/h). Once the United States' entire high-speed rail projects are built and thus connected to one another, Chicago will be the hub of the country's high-speed rail network.
As a result of upgrades that begin in 2001, trains in Michigan now travel at 110 mph (177 km/h) for 98 miles (158 km) between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan. On May 9, 2011, the state received $196.5 million to extend the higher speed rail upgrades from Kalamazoo an additional 135 miles (217 km) to Dearborn, Michigan. The improvements would reduce the travel time from Chicago to Detroit to roughly 5 hours. Michigan had received more than $161 million for high-speed rail and $40 million for Amtrak stations in Troy, Battle Creek and Dearborn.
About 30 miles (50 km) of the Michigan trains' route passes through a congested area of northwestern Indiana along Lake Michigan's south shore, where trains are regularly delayed by freight traffic. In early 2010 the federal government authorized some $71.4 million for this project.
In Minnesota, there is a proposed high-speed rail service from Rochester to the Twin Cities called Zip Rail. The trains would run on a dedicated track at speeds between 150 mph (240 km/h) and 220 mph (350 km/h). This is proposed to be a public–private partnership with public funding for capital costs and private investment for operations, maintenance and growing ridership.
The cities of Denver, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix and Salt Lake City have recently formed the Western High Speed Rail Alliance, which is slated to spend $11 million over three years to study the feasibility of building railway links between the major cities of the southwestern United States, as well as linking to the California high-speed corridor via Las Vegas.
In June 2012, the developer of XpressWest, formerly known as DesertXpress, announced that they expanded the planned high-speed rail network to include links to Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver. The XpressWest plan was supported by the Western High Speed Rail Alliance.
In February 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress allocated $8 billion to be granted to states for intercity rail projects, with "priority to projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service."
In April 2009, as required by ARRA, the FRA released its strategic plan describing the agency's vision for developing high-speed rail in the United States. As potential funding targets, the plan formally identified ten corridors (all previously designated as high-speed rail corridors by several successive Secretaries of Transportation) as well as the Northeast Corridor. The ten designated high-speed corridors, together with the major cities served by each, are:
In addition to the $8 billion provided by ARRA, the plan predicted an additional $5 billion over 5 years would be made annually available for projects to "jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system." On June 17, 2009, the FRA advised grant applicants that evaluation for funding would be based on a proposal's potential to make trips quicker and more convenient, reduce congestion on highways and at airports, and meet other environmental, energy, and safety goals.
The FRA received grant applications from states for stimulus funds and FY 2009 intercity capital funds in August and October 2009 Over $57 Billion in requests were filed from 34 states and on January 28, 2010 31 states and 13 rail corridors received funding. The five areas receiving the most funding had originally been designated as high-speed rail corridors in October 1992 following passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.
|Corridor||Grant received (in millions $)|
|Northern New England||160|
|Corridor||Grant received (in millions $)|
On December 10, 2010, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $1.2 billion in grants for Wisconsin and Ohio would be removed, and redirected to other states. This was due to opposition from governors-elect in both states, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. From the redirected funds, California received $624 million, Florida $342 million, Washington $161 million, and Illinois $42 million. 
On February 16, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott formally announced that he would be rejecting all federal funds to construct a high-speed railway project in the state, thereby killing the Florida High Speed Rail project. Governor Scott's reasoning behind cancelling the project was that it would be "too costly to taxpayers" and that "the risk far outweigh[ed] the benefits". Those funds were once again redistributed to other states.
In February 2011, Vice President Biden proposed spending $53 billion on improved passenger rail service over six years. The plan drew fire from majority Republicans in the House of Representatives, who preferred private investment rather than government investment. No money was appropriated for passenger rail in either the FY 2011 or FY 2012 budgets.
reasonably expected to reach sustained speeds of more than 125 miles per hour
Avelia Liberty is a model of high-speed passenger train marketed by French train producer Alstom. It is related to the TGV and New Pendolino family of high-speed trains, but adapted for North American railroad standards, including U.S. Federal Railroad Administration crashworthiness standards. Amtrak has ordered 28 train sets for use on its Northeast Corridor, with service expected to start in 2021.Capital Red Rose Corridor
Capital Red Rose Corridor, formerly known as Corridor One (corporately styled CORRIDORone), is a commuter rail system proposed in South Central Pennsylvania, United States which will link Harrisburg and Lancaster. Future corridors are being planned to extend commuter rail service to Carlisle, Hershey, Lebanon, York, and communities in the upper Susquehanna Valley. In mid-2008, the official name of the project was changed to the Capital Red Rose Corridor, after a successful write in campaign was launched resulting in over 800 submissions.Chicago Hub Network
The Chicago Hub Network is a collection of proposed fast conventional and high-speed rail lines in the Midwestern United States including 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of track. Since the 1990s, there have been multiple proposals to improve the links from Chicago, Illinois to major destinations including Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition, lines would connect through to major cities in Canada. Eastern routes would blend into the Ohio Hub network. In addition to providing better connections between Midwestern cities, the projects are intended to reduce or eliminate the operating subsidies that American passenger train routes currently require.
If implemented, the plans would return some of the nation's fastest trains to Chicago as it had in the 1930s and 1940s when the Twin Zephyrs, Twin Cities 400, and Hiawatha were based in the city. Chicago continues to be the nation's largest rail hub, and remains unsurpassed in the nation in the total number of passenger and freight trains that converge on the city. Presently, Chicago is a major hub for Amtrak, with 15 different lines terminating at Union Station. Most existing passenger trains in the region operate at speeds of about 55 to 79 miles per hour (89 to 127 km/h), although a few travel faster. The various plans have suggested speeds ranging from 110 to 220 miles per hour (180 to 350 km/h) for the core routes, as well as improved speeds for secondary routes.
The Chicago–St. Louis rail line between is being upgraded so passenger trains will be able to reach top speeds of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) between Carlinville, Illinois, and Joliet, Illinois, work which is expected to be completed in 2017.Empire Corridor
The Empire Corridor is a term used to refer to the approximately 460-mile (740 km) railroad corridor between Niagara Falls, New York and New York City, including the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Amsterdam, Schenectady and Albany. Amtrak's Empire Service and Maple Leaf serve the entire length of the corridor, with the Maple Leaf continuing to Toronto. The Lake Shore Limited follows the corridor between New York and Buffalo–Depew station, where it diverges to continue on to Chicago. The Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack follow the corridor between New York and Schenectady, after which they diverge and continue on to Rutland and Montreal, respectively. Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line provides commuter rail service between Poughkeepsie, New York and Grand Central Terminal. The line is electrified by both overhead catenary and top-contact third rail between Penn Station and 41st Street and by under-contact third rail between Riverdale and Croton–Harmon.
The corridor is also one of ten federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States.
If the proposed high-speed service were built on the corridor, trains traveling between Buffalo and New York City would travel at speeds of up to 125 mph (201 km/h). In the 1890s service on the Empire State Express service between New York City and Buffalo was about 1 hour faster than Amtrak's service in 2013. On September 14, 1891 the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles (702 km) between New York City and Buffalo in 7 hours and 6 minutes (including stops), averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h).Gulf Coast Corridor
The Gulf Coast Corridor is one of ten federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States. The proposed corridor consists of three segments, each of which would carry trains capable of traveling at speeds of up to 110 mph:
Houston, Texas, to New Orleans, Louisiana (362 miles)
Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans (139 miles)
New Orleans to Atlanta, Georgia (521 miles)High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965
The High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 (Public Law 89-220, 79 Stat. 893) was the first attempt by the U.S. Congress to foster the growth of high-speed rail in the U.S. The High Speed Ground Transportation Act was introduced immediately following the creation of Japan's first high-speed Shinkansen, or "bullet train" and was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his Great Society infrastructure building initiatives. Johnson's remarks upon signing the bill included the following:
In recent decades, we have achieved technological miracles in our transportation. But there is one great exception.
We have airplanes which fly three times faster than sound. We have television cameras that are orbiting Mars. But we have the same tired and inadequate mass transportation between our towns and cities that we had 30 years ago.
Today, as we meet here in this historic room where Abigail Adams hung out her washing, an astronaut can orbit the earth faster than a man on the ground can get from New York to Washington. Yet, the same science and technology which gave us our airplanes and our space probes, I believe, could also give us better and faster and more economical transportation on the ground. And a lot of us need it more on the ground than we need it orbiting the earth.
So I hope this meeting this morning will provide a platform for us to get that kind of transportation. We must do it. We must start getting it now. In the past 15 years, travel between our cities has more than doubled. By 1985--only 20 years away--we will have 75 million more Americans in this country. And those 75 million will be doing a great deal more traveling.
So, we must find ways to move more people, to move these people faster, and to move them with greater comfort and with more safety.
This bill is a first step toward accomplishing some of those objectives.
One product of the bill was the creation of regular Metroliner service between New York City and Washington, D.C., at speeds which averaged 90.1 miles per hour (145 km/h), faster than even Acela Express trains operated between the two cities in 2012. The bill also resulted in the creation of the Office of High-Speed Ground Transportation in the Department of Commerce.
Senator Claiborne Pell was thanked by President Johnson for his persistence in pushing the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 through congress and repeatedly bringing the issue to the president's attention.The High Speed Ground Transportation Act received broad bi-partisan support with only 23 out of 432 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voting against the act.Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-240; ISTEA, pronounced Ice-Tea) is a United States federal law that posed a major change to transportation planning and policy, as the first U.S. federal legislation on the subject in the post-Interstate Highway System era.Keystone Corridor
The Keystone Corridor is a 349-mile (562 km) railroad corridor between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that consists of two rail lines: Amtrak's Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg main line, which also hosts SEPTA's Paoli/Thorndale Line commuter rail service; and the Norfolk Southern Pittsburgh Line. The corridor was originally the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Since 2006, the line has been one of the high-speed corridors designated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The track from Lancaster to Parkesburg permits trains of up to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), while the section between Paoli and Philadelphia allows 75 to 90 miles per hour (121 to 145 km/h).
Amtrak runs two intercity rail services along the Keystone Corridor: the Harrisburg-to-New York City Keystone Service and the Pittsburgh-to-New York City Pennsylvanian. SEPTA operates daily Paoli/Thorndale commuter rail service between Philadelphia and Thorndale on the Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg main line. The towns along this stretch form a socio-cultural region called the "Philadelphia Main Line".
The tracks from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg are owned and maintained by Norfolk Southern, which acquired them from Conrail. They include the famous Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona. The tracks between Harrisburg and Philadelphia are owned and maintained by Amtrak, and are the only part of the Keystone Corridor that is electrified. The tracks join the Northeast Corridor at Zoo Interlocking near the Philadelphia Zoo and 30th Street Station.Midwest High Speed Rail Association
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) was founded in 1993 and is based in Chicago, Illinois. The association is a non-profit, member-supported organization that primarily advocates for world-class 220-mph high-speed trains linking major Midwestern cities and supports fast, frequent and dependable trains on other routes that connect with 220-mph corridors to form a modern regional and national rail network.The Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s executive director, Richard Harnish, believes it is time for America to “catch up” with European and Asian countries in terms of using high-speed rail systems.The Association is an active member of fourbillion.com, a coalition of advocacy organizations working to secure a $4 billion appropriation in 2010 for high-speed rail in the U.S. The effort began after the US House of Representatives passed a bill that included $4 billion for high-speed rail. The Senate cut the allocation down to $1.2 billion in their version. The two bills were in a conference committee. In June 2009, The Midwest High Speed Rail Association releaseda transportation engineering study of a 220-mph rail corridor in the Midwest. The 220-mph high-speed link would cut the trip from Chicago to St. Louis to 1 hour and 52 minutes and also serve O'Hare International Airport as well as key Illinois business, university and government centers in Kankakee, Champaign, Decatur, Springfield and Edwardsville. The line would cost between 12 billion and 13 billion dollars.The MHSRA views the Chicago-St. Louis link as the first of a regional 220-mph high-speed rail network that would link Chicago, St. Louis, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh, putting more than 35 million people within a three-hour train ride of Chicago.In a proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation, SNCF, operator of the TGV high-speed rail network in France, estimated that a Midwestern 220-mph high-speed rail network would create 677,000 permanent jobs and 316,000 construction jobs. Automobile trips would be reduced by 4.3 billion vehicle miles each year, saving 3 million barrels of oil each year, and additionally reduce CO2 and other pollutant emissions by 1.4 million tons in 2030. The total estimated cost for the network is $68.5 billion. Advocates for high-speed rail put that cost in perspective by pointing out that the Interstate Highway System cost 450 billion in 2008 dollars.The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has been a vocal critic of libertarian and conservative activists who view MHSRA as distorting the record and facts on high-speed rail. In July 2009, it released a document responding to statements by the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation about high-speed rail.National Maglev Initiative
The National Maglev Initiative (NMI) was a research program undertaken in the early 1990s by the United States Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, and other agencies which studied magnetically levitated, or "maglev", train technology, operating at speeds around 300 miles per hour (480 km/h). The effort was created in April 1990 and released a report in 1993. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) authorized $725 million in funds for maglev research, pending the results of the NMI study, but an appropriation of funds was also required, and it's not clear if that ever occurred.
The initiative identified several corridors, each extending hundreds of miles, across the country that might benefit from high-speed maglev trains. They correspond significantly with the high-speed rail corridors identified in October 1992 following the ISTEA legislation, but were generally more extensive and had other differences.
Maglev technology has largely stagnated in the U.S., with no real revenue deployments. Meanwhile, the longest maglev line in the world used for revenue service is the Shanghai Maglev Train in Shanghai, China, which is less than 19 miles (31 km) in length.Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority
The Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority (NHSRA) is a Nevada state agency established pursuant to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Act (S.B. 457) to develop and implement high-speed intercity rail service, such as the XpressWest project, and to find contractors to build the line. The bill was first introduced on April 7, 2015, and was passed into law on May 20, 2015, by a vote of 40–1.Northern New England Corridor
The Northern New England Corridor is one of ten federally designated higher-speed rail corridors in the United States. If the 489-mile (787 km) corridor were completed as proposed, 110-mile-per-hour (180 km/h) passenger trains would travel from Boston, Massachusetts, to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 4 hours and 31 minutes, and would travel at similar speeds from Boston to Auburn, Maine.
In 2004, Congress extended the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor from Boston to Springfield, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York, and from Springfield to New Haven, Connecticut. The Boston-Springfield-Albany route would provide a link to the Empire Corridor.Office of High-Speed Ground Transportation
The Office of High-Speed Ground Transportation was established in the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) to administer the requirements of the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 (Public Law 89-220, 79 Stat. 893) to "undertake research and development in high-speed ground transportation, including, but not limited to, components such as materials, aerodynamics, vehicle propulsion, vehicle control, communications, and guideways." The office was transferred to DOT and assigned to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in 1967. The office was terminated in 1972, with functions transferred to the FRA's newly established Office of the Associate Administrator for Research, Development, and Demonstrations.One notable product of the office was report commissioned from National Analytics on The Needs and Desires of Travelers in the Northeast Corridor: A Survey of the Dynamics of Mode Choice Decisions.Panama Limited
The Panama Limited was a passenger train operated from 1911 to 1971 by the Illinois Central Railroad between Chicago, Illinois, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Panama Limited took its name from the Panama Canal, which in 1911 was then under construction and three years from completion. For most of its career, the train was "all-Pullman", carrying sleeping cars only. The Panama Limited was one of many trains discontinued when Amtrak began operations in 1971, though Amtrak revived the service later that year and continued it until 1981.
Today, overnight service between Chicago and New Orleans is provided by Amtrak's City of New Orleans, another former Illinois Central train that was originally the daytime counterpart of the Panama Limited.Rail speed limits in the United States
Rail speed limits in the United States are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration. Railroads also implement their own limits and enforce speed limits. Speed restrictions are based on a number of factors including curvature, signaling, track condition, the physical condition of a train, and the presence of grade crossings. Like road speed limits in the United States, speed limits for rail tracks and the trains that run on them use miles per hour (mph).Rick Harnish
Rick Harnish is executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA), which he helped found in 1993.Scott Special
The Scott Special, also known as the Coyote Special, the Death Valley Coyote or the Death Valley Scotty Special, was a one-time, record-breaking (and the best-known) passenger train operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe) from Los Angeles, California, to Chicago, Illinois, at the request of Walter E. Scott, known as "Death Valley Scotty". At the time of its transit in 1905, the Scott Special made the 2,265-mile (3,645 km) trip between the two cities at the fastest speed recorded to date; in doing so, it established the Santa Fe as the leader in high-speed travel between Chicago and the West Coast. The Scott Special made the trip in 44 hours and 54 minutes breaking the previous records, set in 1900 by the Peacock Special, by 13 hours and 2 minutes, and in 1903 by the Lowe Special, by 7 hours and 55 minutes. Santa Fe's regular passenger service from Los Angeles to Chicago at the time was handled on a 2½-day schedule by the California Limited. It was not until the 1936 introduction of the Super Chief that Santa Fe trains would regularly exceed the speeds seen on the Scott Special.South Central Corridor
The South Central Corridor is one of ten federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States. The proposed corridor consists of two segments:
Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Fort Worth, Texas (322 miles)
Little Rock, Arkansas, via Dallas/Fort Worth to San Antonio, Texas (672 miles)Super C (freight train)
The Super C was a high-speed intermodal freight train on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway from 1968 to 1976. Dubbed the "World's Fastest Freight Train," the all-TOFC (trailer-on-flatcar, or "piggyback") and container train ran about 2200 miles between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California on a 40-hour schedule.
High-speed rail in the United States
up to 125 mph
Part of rail transport
|High-speed railway line|
planned networks in italics