Jefferson City could get high-speed train service

The current KC to St. Louis Amtrak train route passes through Jefferson City. MoDOT said it is too early to say if the proposed high-speed line will follow the same route.

UPDATE: Wednesday 2:05 p.m.: A Missouri Department of Transportation official has cast doubt on hopes that the high-speed train would travel through Jefferson City. MoDOT's Multimodal Director Brian Weiler said the current Amtrak route, which mostly hugs the Missouri River from Jefferson City to St. Louis, isn't well suited for high-speed trains. "It's a very heavy freight corridor by Union Pacific, they run a lot of coal trains and a lot of freight trains on it," Weiler said. "There's quite a bit of curvature on it and quite a bit of elevation changes."For safe travel by bullet train, Weiler says the fewer ups-and-downs the better."We would like to obtain speeds about 110 to 125," Weiler said, describing the expectations of the proposed St. Louis to Kansas City high-spreed rail line. The current Amtrak trains average around 55 miles per hour and make frequent stops, according to Weiler. So what routes could the high-speed train take? Many wonder if the train should take a similar route to Interstate 70, Weiler said it was too early to speculate. "Until we get into the environmental and engineering analysis it's hard to predict exactly what the final outcome may be," Weiler said. "We would have to see where the data drives us."What route would you like to see the train take? Leave a comment below. Original Story:Missouri is asking for federal funding to build high-speed rail service between St. Louis and Kansas City.The application for funding, which will be submitted April 4th, includes a request to build a new train station in Jefferson City.Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday at the Amtrak station in Kirkwood that the state would seek $1 billion in funding.Missouri has a greater chance at getting the money now that Florida has turned down $2.4 billion in federal funding for its own high-speed rail service.Florida's new Republican governor, Rick Scott, rejected plans for a high-speed line from Orlando to Tampa out of concern that the state couldn't afford future operating costs.Nixon, a Democrat, said going after the money makes economic sense, noting that Missouri has a chance to obtain nearly $1 billion with only a $4.5 million state match. "We think that rail travel is a significant and real part of the future of moving people," Nixon said. The application will seek $373 million for upgrades to existing lines and about $600 million to plan, design and buy land for a separate line dedicated to high-speed rail only. Nixon said the upgrades to existing lines would create more than 1,300 jobs over the next few years. "Missouri was in a good position to seek after federal funding because of work that has been done over the past several years," said Kristi Jamison, community relations coordinator with MoDot. "Including a study done by the University of Missouri that looked at how we could increase capacity and reliability of rail service."Jamison said it is too early to say where the dedicated high-speed rail line will be built but says the improvements to the existing rail lines will benefit Jefferson City.For example, MoDOT plans to expand the rail bridge over the Osage River, just east of Jefferson City, to be double-railed. There are several places along the existing St. Louis to Kansas City route that remain single-railed, especially west of Jefferson City.The areas of single-rail cause bottle-necks as freight trains compete with passenger trains for use of the tracks. In 2009, MoDOT added a 9,000 foot double-track along the route in California, Mo which greatly improved on time performance. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail as part of his goal of using infrastructure spending to jump-start job creation. In his State of the Union speech in January, Obama said he wanted to provide 80 percent of Americans with access to high-speed trains within a quarter of a century.But many Republicans believe pursuing high-speed rail is a waste of money . Scott became the third Republican governor elected in November to kill rail projects approved by his predecessor. Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio also turned down funding.Missouri Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, questioned whether the possible benefits of high-speed rail were worth the cost. Elmer said he rode a high-speed train in Europe and that it was nice but that he would prefer if Missouri pass on the federal money."The money being expended, I don't think, will be returned in any sort of overall benefit that is worth the money," Elmer said.There are plenty of suitors competing with Missouri for the money. Several states, including New York, Virginia, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island, have already asked for the Florida money. The funding comes through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration.Nixon said the St. Louis-to-Kansas City line would complement a high-speed rail project already under way from Chicago to St. Louis."It would be a transformative step for Missouri, both in terms of the jobs created and in developing this mode of transportation between our state's two largest metropolitan areas and the cities along the route, including the state capital," Nixon said. Jefferson City sits along the route of the line, about midway between the state's two metropolitan areas.Missouri previously was awarded $32 million in federal funds for improvements to existing high-speed lines.Kevin Keith, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said that with rising fuel prices , "Missourians need and deserve reliable options." He said the upgrades and the new line would help ensure that trains would be more likely to arrive on time and avoid delays caused when existing rail lines, owned by Union Pacific, are being used by freight trains."Sometimes you just have to think big and be bold," Keith said.What do you think? Would you travel on the high-speed train to get to KC or St. Louis?(The Associated Press contributed to this story)