Watch: Brightline on CBS Mornings

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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CBS Mornings correspondent Kris Van Cleave produced an excellent report on the prospects for high-speed rail in the United States, focusing on Brightline’s successful Miami-Orlando service, which offers 125-mph operations on a dedicated right-of-way between West Palm Beach and Orlando, with plans to extend the line to Tampa.

The report, “Could Brightline be a model for high-speed rail in U.S.?” aired Nov. 21. It features Fortress Investment Group Co-Founder/Brightline Founder and Chairman Wes Edens, who also talks about Brightline West. Former USDOT/FRA NECIP (Northeast Corridor Improvement Project) Director and World Bank Railways Advisor Lou Thompson and Amtrak President Roger Harris also appear on the segment.

Next Stop: Cu–Camonga! by Contributing Editor Bruce E. Kelly

After the go-ahead was recently announced for Brightline to build between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga* (some 50 miles east of Los Angeles) with the majority of the line being within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, I wondered how that would work through Cajon Pass, where a breach between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains provides steep but manageable rail and road passage from the Mojave Desert into the L.A. Basin and its surrounding suburbs. Of the existing BNSF and Union Pacific main tracks through Cajon Pass, three have maximum grades of approximately 2.2%, with a fourth line reaching 3%. But the steepest parts of I-15 are posted for 6%. Can high-speed rail (HSR) handle that?

A quick, rudimentary check of the topographic contours surrounding the steepest stretch of I-15, where the east- and west-bound lanes separate just below Cajon Summit, suggests Brightline might be able to apply enough curvature to keep its maximum grade just below 4%. Some HSR lines in Europe are said to have maximum grades of 4%, and a section of the Chinese-built high-speed Quinghai-Tibet Railway is said to reach 5.2%.

Food for thought among you railway engineers tomorrow over Thanksgiving dinner. 

*Cucamonga has a history all its own within the pop culture and travel lore of southern California, as shown here.

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