Slow Progress on America's High-Speed Rail Efforts

Milton Lindsay examines America's efforts to build a national system of high-speed trains and finds mixed results in the nation's eleven intended corridors.
July 13, 2012, 8am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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Outside of the existing Northeast Corridor (call it "high-speed" or not) and the just-beginning start-up of California's high-speed rail network, uneven progress has been made on the rest of the nation's designated corridors.

As Lindsay reports, each corridor comes with a completely different set of successes and challenges. For example, on the much-championed California corridor, "California lawmakers approved funding for the first phase of the high-speed rail network. Friday's bill secures the $8 billion needed to begin work on the 130-mile section of track in the Central Valley, which will run from Madera to Bakersfield. Construction on this initial phase of the high-speed rail system is still expected to begin late 2012."

In the Northeast Corridor, "development of an enhanced high-speed rail corridor in the Northeast would cost $151 billion. Amtrak's report also set completion goals for the projects. By 2020, it says it hopes to reduce travel times from Philadelphia to New York to 62 minutes (and to 37 minutes by 2030). Additionally, Amtrak says it will acquire 40 more Acela trains by 2015, which will increase its high-speed service by 40 percent," reports Lindsay.

Still, development has either remained slow or completely stalled in most other corridors. Most projects lack comprehensive funding strategies and timetables for their construction. Of the Florida corridor, including Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, Lindsay states "[t]his project seems like it is pretty much dead." Similarly, political pressure in the South Central corridor have advocates turning to the private sector for funding.

Solutions for advancing high-speed rail include private enterprise, such as in the South Central corridor between Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth, and using funds for the improvement of existing rail right-of-ways, as in the Chicago Hub Network and Pacific Northwest corridor.

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Published on Thursday, July 12, 2012 in Next American City
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