New Rail Corridors Sprouting


With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, rail corridors are the future for development of new transportation systems, according to presenters at the Corridor Development Strategies session of the APTA Rail Conference. FRA Chief Counsel Allison Ishihara Fultz described new corridors as “essential to future passenger rail expansion.” She cited Charlotte to Atlanta as an example, saying the government would like to see high-speed rail developed there.

A corridor showing promise and success is in the Utah Valley, where trains run from Salt Lake City to Provo. Janelle Robertson is a project manager with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and says the agency is investing in a 2nd track because of population growth in the region—being careful to take customer needs into consideration. “Everybody is not just coming from the outside to the Salt Lake City center in the morning, and then from city center to outside,” she explained.

From left: Yoav Hagler; Chad Edison, chief deputy secretary for rail and transit, California State Transportation Agency (session moderator); Andy Byford; Janelle Robertson; Allison Ishihara Fultz.

UTA brought in Yoav Hagler, VP technical consulting, DB E.C.O. North America Inc., to find best uses and practices. The key is making the train a ‘want’ instead of a ‘need’. “Travel time is more competitive than sitting in traffic on I-15.” When combined with convenience, reliability, and comfort, UTA has found committed ridership.

Amtrak has big plans for rail corridors. Andy Byford, senior VP of high-speed rail development, says now is the time. “We do believe Amtrak should take the lead. We are America’s railroad,” he said. Byford cited Houston to Dallas as a primary place that Amtrak plans to lead on rail corridors. The agency is looking for routes that are 200-600 miles—too short to fly, too long to drive—and city pairings with the right characteristics (topography, growth, suboptimal transport between them), and says that Amtrak is even looking at potential lines that would cross into Canada.

With dollars available, Allison Ishihara Fultz advises agencies to get to know Notices of Funding Opportunities carefully. “They are your friend.”

AECOM sponsored the session.

View more images from the conference here.