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Canada-USA High Speed Rail Possibilities – Part 2 Montreal-New York

High Speed Rail Canada - High Noon for High Speed Rail Series

by Paul Langan, Founder High Speed Rail Canada - 12/14/09

The High Speed Rail (HSR) passenger rail renewal is coming to North America the question is where will it be implemented . I would like to examine the cross border opportunities for HSR that have been put forward.

Most if not all the passenger rail corridors improvements currently envisioned connecting Canada and the USA would result in higher speed passenger rail as opposed to true high speed rail. (over 200kph). I would like to examine the Montreal-New York HSR proposal and the latest information on this corridor.

All Canada/USA cross border rail corridors share three significant fundamental challenges. These challenges have been identified in Part 1 of our series.

The Montreal – New York City has not been identified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as a possible HSR corridor. Although part of the corridor from New York City to Albany , NY does fall under the Empire corridor which is a FRA HSR designated corridor. See map for clarification.

Historically there have been 2 significant studies looking at HSR in this corridor. They are the 1984 - Very High Speed Rail Service between Montreal and New York Study - Gaston de Courtois and Roland Courjault- Rade and the 2004 - I-87 Multimodal Corridor Study - Parsons Transportation Group – Clough Harbour & Associates .

The 2004 study recommended that incremental improvements to the line were more cost effective than implementing true HSR. That study is available on the High Speed Rail Canada website for viewing. It is worth reading the study to educate oneself on this line and its’ potential for higher and high speed rail and its challenges. Click on the Montreal-New York City tab at High Speed Rail Canada to view.

Currently the Amtrak Adirondack train provides daily service between the two cities. The trip takes approximately 10hours and costs $62.00 each way. The on-time average performance of the Adirondack is 60%.

The state of New York has committed in their High Speed Rail Vision to improved service to Boston, Montreal and Toronto.

On July 10th, 2009, The New York State Department of Transportation applied to the FRA for a grant titled, “Adirondack Corridor Service Reliability Initiative”

If this $12million grant application is successful the result will be to “Construct several distinct infrastructure improvements to include completion of a multi-year corridor track rehabilitation program and relief of Main Line congestion in Rouses Point, caused by U.S. Customs & Border Protection inspections. Also improve safety conditions by updating circuitry on existing highway/railroad grade crossing warning device systems.”

This initiative is part of the 2008 State of New York’s Rail Plan.
In October 2009, According to the Press Republican, Quebec Premier Jean Charest met with New York Governor David Paterson on the HSR subject according to Pierre Arcand, Minister of International Relations for the Government of Quebec. Here is a similar article in the French media.

So after three decades of talking about improving this Montreal-New York rail line, it seems at least some incremental improvements will be made and in the short term improved reliability and a shortened trip duration for the Amtrak Adirondack will result.


  1. Wherever the NYC/Montreal alignment, one strategy is to push for a T-bone concept.

    There might never be 300kph Express HSR (current generation European and Japanese HSR) along the Northeast Corridor owned by Amtrak, though ongoing improvements should allow it to operate as a 220kph+ corridor for longer stretches.

    So for NYC/Boston to have a significant leg going at 300kph, it needs to run north from NYC inland and then the NYC/Boston heads east while the NYC/Montreal heads north. The final piece is a Regional HSR class service sharing the Boston toward NY State corridor and then continuing on the Empire line to Niagara and Toronto.

    As long as you draw the Express HSR and Regional HSR corridors in the same color, maybe just different width, the result is a "Northern Cross" alignment. And clearly if pooling the capital cost of Montreal / Boston, Montreal / NYC and Boston / NYC allows the corridor to be primarily 300kph, that results in better effective trip speeds than any more direct alignments at 175kph.

  2. In part 3 of this series will you discuss Toronto <-> NYC and Toronto <-> Chicago?

    Not sure whether this makes sense - but would Boston<->Montreal<->Toronto<->Detroit<->Chicago route make sense or perhaps Boston<->Kingston<->Toronto<->Detroit<->Chicago? Perhaps that way both the US and Canada could share the investment and the benefits? (I know political impossibility...but perhaps real leaders will find a way?)


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