Detailed Description of Demonstration
Description of the Steel Interstate Prototype Demonstration
The route Rail Solution has chosen for the demonstration of the Prototype of the SIS is a part of the existing Crescent Corridor of the Norfolk Southern Corporation, which covers the territory from the Mid-south to the edge of the Eastern Mega-region.
Map of the Route for the Memphis-Harrisburg Steel Interstate Prototype Demonstration
The Prototype Demonstration route, which Rail Solution calls the Memphis-Harrisburg Great Valley Corridor, starts at Memphis, Tennessee at the Norfolk Southern Memphis Regional Intermodal Terminal in Rossville, in Fayette County, Tennessee. The route links consecutively the following cities and has principal connections external to the corridor as shown:
- Memphis, Tennessee-connections to rail systems in many directions
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Chattanooga, Tennessee- connections to Birmingham, Al and Atlanta, GA
- Knoxville, Tennessee- connections to Lexington, KY; Cincinnati, OH, and Louisville, KY, and Ashville, NC
- Bristol, TN-VA
- Roanoke, Virginia- connection to Heartland Corridor which runs east and west through Roanoke to the port of Norfolk, VA and to Richmond, VA
- Front Royal, VA- connection to Manassas, VA with service to Washington, Baltimore
- Hagerstown, MD- connections to multiple directions from intermodal terminal at Greencastle, PA, serving New York City, New Jersey, New York State and upper Northeast, Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania.
- Harrisburg, PA- connections to Pennsylvania and New York State.
The Prototype Demonstration will use the Shenandoah Valley route from Roanoke to Front Royal.
The route will parallel as closely as feasible the Interstate Highway System routes 1-40, I-75, and I-81, which carry some of the heaviest loads of truck freight traffic in the U.S.
The chosen route, which we superimposed on the interstate highway routes, is shown in this figure from Norfolk Southern.
SIS Prototype Route and Interstate Highway routes1 (Route of the Demonstration superimposed by Rail Solution)
1. Features of the Prototype Demonstration Route
The following are the key features of the route.
Potential for Freight traffic diversion
- Density of Freight Traffic in corridor.
I-40, I-75, and I-81 all three exhibit very high volumes of truck traffic, much of which would be targeted for diversion to the SIS Prototype. Tables 1 and 2 contain estimated volumes of truck traffic existing on the SIS Prototype Demonstration route. Table 1 is based on Tennessee DOT projections of growth rate in Tennessee, and Table 2 is based on Virginia growth rates applied to both states. These estimates are derived from the studies of the Virginia DOT2 and the Tennessee DOT3.
- Truck Diversion Potential Estimates by Norfolk Southern
Truck diversion potential has been estimated by Norfolk Southern, conclusions of which are shown in the figure on diversion potential of Norfolk Southern. The diversion potential estimates are considerable higher than those of the state Departments of Transportation. In particular, the city pairs of the graph that are relevant to the Prototype Demonstration are Memphis-Northeast, showing present diversion of 22% with a potential growth to 75%, and increase of more than 50%. The Birmingham-Northeast has an estimated potential of 72% compared to the present 26% of trucks diverted. In addition rerouting of some Atlanta to Northeast through Chattanooga traffic could divert truck traffic from Atlanta onto the Demonstration Prototype. That route is not shown on Crescent Corridor maps of Norfolk Southern, but the route is used between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
Much of the truck traffic (probably as much as 80 percent) on the interstate highway paralleling the Demonstration route is long haul or medium haul (400 to 500 miles). Medium and long haul would be targeted by the Demonstration route.
Diversion Potential for various traffic pairs in the Norfolk Southern Crescent Corridor4
Another illustration of the advantage of this Prototype Demonstration route can be seen by this figure which depicts the current proportions of through-freight shipped by truck vs. intermodal rail in key interstate corridors.
Potential for Supporting Passenger Service
The Prototype Demonstration route has the potential to support higher speed passenger traffic for these trips within the Prototype route (counting only 300 mile or fewer trips:
- Cities from Bristol to Knoxville and Chattanooga within Tennessee.
- Cities from Winchester to Staunton, Roanoke, and Bristol within Virginia.
- Roanoke to Knoxville and Chattanooga between states.
29 colleges lie in the Virginia section of the I-81 Corridor alone; special passenger services could be provided for sporting events at major universities, such as Virginia Tech, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Memphis.
The potential for connection to the following highly desired destinations will exist:
- Chattanooga to Atlanta addition, making feasible Bristol and Knoxville to Atlanta service.
- Chattanooga to Birmingham addition, making feasible Bristol and Knoxville to Birmingham service.
- Connection to Virginia Rail service, making feasible service from Bristol and Roanoke to Lynchburg, Richmond, and Washington.
The experience with Amtrak Virginia service indicates that there is demand for rail passenger service extension in Virginia. In Tennessee, the demand for the service has not been studied extensively. However, it is noted that there is a proposal for very high speed rail from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Even fast passenger rail would probably be adequate to assure high ridership in that market. The distance is approximately 125 miles. At an average of 90 mph, which would be achieved by high performance rail, the full trip would take about 1 hour-35 minutes. From Knoxville to Atlanta, at a distance of 220 miles would take 2 hours-40 minutes.
Condition of Alignment and Operating Systems
The present alignment of the Prototype Demonstration route is mostly single track. The system accommodates speeds typically between 25 and 60 mph. It has a very high number of grade crossings and even some crossings of mainline tracks of other rail systems. In some areas the alignments have small radius curves that will need to be removed. Other problems are high local grades that will need to be reduced. One of the main problems is the location of tracks that go through cities and towns. Many of these segments will need to be relocated. In addition, some parts of the rights-of-way will not be wide enough.
2. Correlation of Prototype route to national service requirements
The Prototype Demonstration of the SIS over the chosen Memphis-Harrisburg route meets the U.S. Department of Transportation vision for the National rail system5 by fulfilling the following requirements-
- Regional corridors. The Prototype meets the criteria for regional corridors as required by the national plan. The Prototype connects mid-sized urban areas, as illustrated by the cities Memphis, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Bristol, Roanoke, and Harrisburg. Many smaller communities are served, including such towns and cities as Chambersburg, PA, Hagerstown, MD; Martinsburg, WV, Winchester, VA; Staunton, VA; Christiansburg-Blacksburg, VA; Abingdon, VA, Johnson City, TN; Morristown, TN; and Corinth, MS. This will be done with convenient, frequent 79-110 mph service on a mix of dedicated and shared track. Provisions exist for connection to core Express corridors at Memphis, Harrisburg, and any Chattanooga-Atlanta service.
- Emerging system. The Prototype connects to regional urban areas (Memphis and Harrisburg) and the mega regions of the Southeast and the Northeast at speeds up to in the range of 79-110 mph on shared track.
- Future community connections. The Prototype is within the corridors required for connection to major hubs and regions thus meeting the requirement for provision for future community connections.
- Speed, reliability, and safety. Design and operational standards for the SIS Prototype Demonstration will meet all requirements for high performance rail. The SIS will provide improved performance in these areas.
- Fuel economy, less environmental impact, and less overall cost. The use of electrified system will demonstrate lower costs, less environmental impact, and less use of petroleum products. Further, the overall cost of capital and operations cost will be less than competing solutions using conventional highway construction for increased freight capacity, petroleum based fuels, and less economical service for person travel on air and private automobiles.
3. Summary of Design Basis for the Prototype Demonstration of SIS
The design basis for the SIS Prototype Demonstration will be based on the following criteria:
- Two through tracks. Main lines would have at least two through tracks, so that trains can be handled in both directions without having to stop and meet oncoming trains.
- Electric motive power. The SIS network will be powered by electricity, provided to electric locomotives from a system of overhead wires called catenary.
- Grade separated alignment of tracks. Rail lines of the SIS Prototype will not cross roads and highways at grade, but will pass over or under using bridges or underpasses.
- SIS Prototype will be precursor to core network. The SIS prototype will be part of the future backbone of SIS-caliber railroad main lines.
- Speed criteria will be to meet the 79-110 mph range. The minimum speed will be 79 for some parts of the system. The maximum will be 110 mph.
1 Map taken from Presentation, Roger Bennett, Director or Industrial Development, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norfolk Southern – Intermodal Future to Transportation Research Forum, Washington, DC Chapter, October 20, 2010.
2 Feasibility Plan for Maximum Truck to Rail Diversion in Virginia’s I-81 Corridor, Cambridge Systematics for the Virginia Department of Transportation, April 15, 2010.
3 TDOT Final Freight Analysis, Cambridge Systematics for Tennessee Department of Transportation- June 2010
4From Presentation, Roger Bennett, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norfolk Southern – Intermodal Future to Transportation Research Forum, Washington, DC Chapter, October 20, 2010. (Rail solution added the overlay of potential sources of traffic for the Prototype Demonstration.)
5National Rail Plan, September 2010, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration.