"[A]fter millions and millions of dollars spent studying, planning, and mostly falling short, the American incarnation of high-speed passenger rail is but a single line that travels from Washington to Boston at an average speed of under 80 miles per hour.
Now, though, the Obama administration is looking to change all that, starting with $8 billion in federal stimulus money to be awarded starting this winter. Equally captivated, Congress is considering adding as much as $4 billion more in next year's budget. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, is talking $50 billion after that.
That helps explain the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, which didn't even exist a year ago. Actually, the group was just formed in June, and the timing is no accident. High-speed rail is Washington's latest potential bonanza, it seems, and that $8 billion dollars - just for starters - is attracting lots of attention. In fact, an examination by The Center for Public Integrity found that more than 50 public and private groups explicitly lobbied on high-speed rail policy last quarter - a three-fold increase from a year ago. Even that number fails to capture dozens of other actors likely lobbying on high-speed rail that keep their specific lobbying targets as vague as Washington does its spending plans."