Experts Question $8 Billion HSR Stimulus Investment

No one expects the $8 billion to build any one single high-speed-rail system in the U.S. But the U.S., with its vast distances and low gas prices, is not Europe or Asia, and some question whether the investment will produce any substantial results.
March 6, 2009, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Some transportation researchers say a network of trains that can travel faster than 200 miles an hour is not feasible in the United States. They say the high price tag for building and operating a super-fast system will be the biggest deterrent.

And much like Amtrak's eight-year-old Acela Express, the only US high-speed rail, the trains would have to compete in a culture that prefers cars and planes.

"We have tremendous distances compared with Japan or Europe," said Carlos Schwantes, a professor of transportation studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "We're just much bigger, and in so much of the country it's so low a population density that we'd have to ask the question: Is it worth spending our dollars for the infrastructure in those areas?"

High-speed rail systems, which have been slow to catch on here, took off abroad with the help of huge government subsidies and gas prices that were more than double what American drivers were paying when prices here peaked last year, transportation researchers say."

"Spread out over the country, $8 billion will be an important amount of money to advance the engineering and design," said Peter Gertler, national public transit services director with HNTB, an engineering and architectural firm that has been involved in the Midwest high-speed rail project. But going forward, he said, high-speed rail authorities "will need more local funding at the private and state levels."

Thanks to Bay Area Transportation News

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Published on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 in The Boston Globe
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