From California to Florida, train travel is about to get a lot faster across the country.
It’s possible to get from Milan to Rome on the high-speed Frecciarossa train in under three hours and from Tokyo to Osaka on the Shinkansen bullet train in just two and a half hours. But getting between major cities in the United States has long been relegated to lengthy road trips or flights, while trains have remained a novelty for slow-travel enthusiasts who wish to stop and take in the views along the way.
But with a major overhaul of Amtrak’s Acela service in the Northeast Corridor coming up in 2021 and four new major routes planned to be built over the next decade, that’s all about to change. Here’s what’s next for high-speed train travel in the United States.
Las Vegas to Southern California
Privately-owned rail company XpressWest has been planning to build a high-speed train route that connects Las Vegas to Southern California in under two hours since 2005.
However, in September 2018, Brightline Trains—another private rail company that opened its first routes in Florida earlier this year—acquired the project. That came after XpressWest struggled to raise money to break ground on the 185 miles of track connecting Las Vegas to Victorville, California, a city in the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Since most of the federal and state approvals have already been secured to begin the project, construction on the all-electric train is scheduled to begin in 2019 and service is expected to be operational by 2022.
The privately-owned Brightline high-speed trains that started to run along Florida’s east coast earlier in 2018 have already cut the journey time between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, which typically takes 45 minutes and up to 90 in traffic, to just 30 minutes by train. The line also has a 60-minute route between Miami and West Palm Beach, which can take up to two hours by car.
Those lines mostly are frequented by commuters at this point, but when the line expands to Orlando International Airport in 2021, it is expected to cut the travel time between Miami and Orlando to just three hours on trains traveling up to 125 miles per hour. Brightline’s station in Orlando is nearly finished, but construction on the 170 miles of new track is expected to begin in late 2018 and will take three years to finish.
California’s high-speed rail project has been plagued with growing costs and political opposition. But when it finally opens in 2033, it could cut the drive of six (or more) hours between San Francisco and Los Angeles down to under three hours on trains traveling up to 220 miles per hour. (The current train route between the two cities takes more than 10 hours on Amtrak.)
Construction on the first 119-mile section in the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Madera is already under way and expected to be completed by 2022, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. There are also future plans to extend the trains up to Sacramento and down to San Diego, for a total of 800 miles of track and 24 stations.
Houston to Dallas
Although ground hasn’t been broken yet, the privately-owned Texas Central Partners hopes to connect Dallas and Houston via a 90-minute high-speed route by 2024. (The drive currently takes between three and a half to four hours in traffic.)
However, Texas Central has yet to raise the full amount of money it’ll take to build the $15 billion project and still needs to secure land rights, so stay tuned for updates on this one in the future.