Haggling Over High-Speed Rail Funds

Burgess Everett and Adam Snider look at the growing debate over where to allocate limited high-speed rail funds: on the East Coast, where rail already has a foothold, or out West, where California has the land and starter funds to make it happen.
May 15, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Seen as a "shining savior" to those looking to reduce congestion and efficiently move millions of people, the contruction of high-speed rail throughout the United States (as President Obama had hoped) is being contrained by geography and limited funds. As such, HSR supporters are enmeshed in a debate over where to focus limited resources.

According to Everett and Snider, "lawmakers are torn between how to use limited funds: along the densely packed East Coast, which has a history of commuter rail, or out West, where California has ponied up billions of dollars to build a high-speed system, much of it from scratch."

California has a head start, with $6 billion already allocated to the first phase of their HSR project, which could break ground this year. However, California's push is facing challenges at home and in D.C.

"In Washington, freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has pushed to concentrate high-speed rail efforts in the Northeast, not back home.

"I've looked deep into California high-speed rail, and they continue to change the number, and it doesn't pencil out. There's a lot of hypothetical numbers - you can build a better business plan somewhere like the Northeast [Corridor], where you've already got ridership numbers and current travel times," he said.

 

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Published on Sunday, May 13, 2012 in Politico
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