The Acela, Amtrak’s “high-speed” rail line, is not actually high speed, hence my putting that term in quotes. At least: it wasn’t, until today, sort of.
New Jersey’s senators are excited.
Today, U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) applauded Amtrak for taking an important step to advance high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor by conducting a test run of high-speed trains in New Jersey. The initial test run is expected to take place tonight between Trenton and New Brunswick, where Amtrak will test its high-speed Acela Express equipment at 165 mph, which is 5 mph above the expected future maximum operating speed of 160 mph and 30 mph above the current maximum speed of 135 mph.
Trains in other (far better!) countries go up to 200 miles an hour, so that’s not that great. But: Yeah! Alright! Faster Amtrak! A trip of 400 miles that used to take just under three hours will now take … two and a half. And the 20-or-so-minute trip between Trenton and New Brunswick will be shortened by, like, five?
Actually, that 30-minute expected improvement is a little high. The Associated Press notes that the speed difference elsewhere on the line is more subtle than the stretch in Jersey.
Two test locations — from Perryville, Md., to Wilmington, Del., and from Trenton to New Brunswick, N.J. — currently have a speed limit of 135 mph. The two others — in Rhode Island from Westerly to Cranston and in Massachusetts from South Attleboro to Readville — currently have 150 mph limits.
Hm. Perhaps the good senators’ statement should be reworded slightly: We applaud Amtrak for taking a baby step.