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Ark. panel agrees to look at high-speed rail

(The Associated Press circulated the following on July 8, 2009.)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Highway Commission has agreed to seek funding for a study of possible high-speed rail connections from Texarkana to Little Rock and from Little Rock to Memphis, Tenn.

At a meeting Wednesday, the panel authorized the state Highway and Transportation Department to apply to the Federal Railroad Administration for money to help pay for the study, which would be carried out by a consulting firm.

Scott Bennett, assistant chief engineer for planning in the highway agency, said after the meeting that he wasn't sure how much the study would cost, but he expects it to be in the range of $500,000 to $750,000. Half the cost would have to be paid by the state, he said. A decision from the federal rail agency is likely early next year, he said.

The study itself would likely take about 18 months, Bennett said.

The order authorizing the grant application said the Little Rock-Texarkana segment is already designated as part of the South Central High-Speed Rail Corridor, and the FRA will be conducting a feasibility study "to consider extending high-speed passenger rail service from Little Rock to Memphis."

Randy Ort, Highway Department spokesman, said establishment of high-speed passenger rail service between Little Rock and Memphis would require building new tracks. Sections of rail lines that formerly connected the two cities directly, across the Delta region in east Arkansas, were removed after they were no long in use.

Friday, July 10, 2009

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