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SEC and Open Discussion

Meeting: Tonight - Monday, Feb 26th, 7 pm (central),

Zoom will not be available for this one


Meeting Agenda:

  • Headlines

  • Open Discussion on High Speed Rail


Faster Headlines

Wheels on Steel:

The Cool Down

King5 NBC


Kyodo News

The Asahi-Shinbun


Up in the Air:


Business Travel News

The Southeast Corridor:

While the Brightline West and California high-speed rail projects received most of the attention when the FRA announced grants in December, there was a surprisingly large number of grants for the Southeast Corridor (SEC).

The southeastern United States is growing rapidly.  According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) the population along their project has increased over 61% between 2000 and 2020 and is expected to increase far into the future. As a result, there have been discussions on how to prevent congestion in the already bottlenecked roadway system, which leads back to the railroads as a solution. 

The Southeast Corridor (SEC) extends down from Washington DC to Richmond, VA; Raleigh Durham, NC; Charlotte, SC; and eventually onto Atlanta.  Beyond Atlanta there are also plans to extend the SEC down to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet up with a potential Brightline expansion; and Nashville, TN; via Chattanooga.

However, this is not just one plan, but rather a combination of rail state plans to upgrade existing rail infrastructure. Most of the service along this SEC will be traditional 79 mph, with some corridors at 110 mph.  Although a new 220 mph high-speed rail between Atlanta and Charlotte, SC, is just completing its environmental review. This route would eventually lead to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.

It is ironic because the SEC would be a great high-speed rail market, however, this program will likely never achieve its goals.  The issue is that it is all public fund-design-build-operate, with at least four states involved.   This means this project will be highly subject to political whims, and as seen in Florida and Wisconsin in 2009; politicians like to make the case that high-speed rail is a waste and not needed. 

Further, this program in the southeast is very similar to the Chicago to St. Louis rail upgrades that were awarded in 2009.  For decades there has been the dream of a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis.  In 2010 that corridor received funding with the idea to incrementally increase speeds…first from 79mph to 110 mph, then to 200+ mph.  However, after 14 years and nearly $2.2 billion spent, the Chicago to St. Louis line has only been upgraded to 90 miles per hour.  Though, in May 2023, certain portions of the route finally achieved maximum speeds of 110mph.  

Nonetheless, what is happening in the southeast is interesting.  It is just this strategic plan is highly susceptible to political influence and turmoil.  This type of plan has been done before and traditionally failed.  Instead, a public/private partnership plan would work better.    Either way, the southeast corridor is going to be interesting to observe.


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high-speed rail and high-speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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