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High-speed rail in southeast corridor faces more delays

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 4, 2001
WASHINGTON Amtrak officials say the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have pushed back plans to upgrade the southeast corridor with high-speed rail, an upgrade that would have brought high-speed trains like the Acela through Meridian.
Amtrak's security expenses have significantly increased, especially since the company began hiring more security officers.
The additional security personnel are meant to enhance security precautions, including uniformed and plainclothes officers on each train, bomb-sniffing dogs and tighter restrictions on platforms.
The Acela, which runs from Washington to New York and Boston, began carrying commuters nearly a year ago, Van Veen said. The train, which is powered by electricity, operates much like a monorail with a sleek body and smooth ride.
Since upgrading the southeast corridor with electrification would bring enormous costs, officials will likely use high-speed diesel trains similar to the Acela to travel from New Orleans to Atlanta or to Pensacola, she said.
Before the northeast quadrant could run the Acela, Amtrak officials had to replace wood railroad ties with more durable concrete ones, a step Amtrak officials would also have to take in the southeast quadrant. Grade crossings in the southeast quadrant would also have to be closed, and replaced with overpasses or tunnels, Van Veen said.
The number of passengers on the Crescent which runs from New Orleans to New York and on the Acela increased significantly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Passengers like the speed of the Acela, which runs from Washington to New York in two hours and 44 minutes, Van Veen said, adding that passengers also avoid waiting periods in airports.
Despite the increase in train travel, Amtrak will not be self-sufficient by 2003 as company officials had planned, Van Veen said.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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