Trains are an integral part of American history, and, until the turn of the 20th century, they were the main mode of long distance transportation for most people… hence the reason why owning all four railroads in a Monopoly game is awesome. But trains aren’t what they used to be, at least in this country. We lack a real, innovative, high speed train system.
That might just change though as the Obama administration announced $8 billion in grants to over a dozen states to build, upgrade, and otherwise improve rail systems. But is it going to be enough?
The biggest winner (surprise surprise) is California. The Golden State was awarded $2.3 billion, almost all of which will be devoted to a high speed rail system running from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds of up to 220 mph. This is about half of what California wanted; it could cost upwards of $45 billion to complete only the first two phases of the project according to the Rail Authority. California estimates that by 2030, a finished high speed train project will carry 65 to 96 million riders per year between cities, though other estimates say the number will more likely be 23 to 31 million users (as well as projecting a cost of up to $81 billion). So really this grant amounts to nothing more than a drop in the bucket in terms of required funding.
Moving on from California, the next biggest winners were the Midwest states with $2.6 billion. A proposed high-speed train corridor would allow trains to run at 110 mph between Chicago and St. Louis as well as improving various stations and rail services across the other states. Florida also managed to grab over $1.8 billion to build 84 miles of track between Tampa and Orlando as well as improve existing tracks in other parts of the state.
Money will also go to a railway between Charlotte, N.C. and Washington D.C. to allow existing trains to go at speeds around 90 mph. $520 million will be dedicated to 30 “interrelated projects” to improve this corridor.
My home region, the Northeast, got hosed. Bad. With under $500 million in grants spread out between seven states, from Maine to Washington D.C. What pisses me off is that we already have a high speed commuter train. Yeah, I didn’t know that until yesterday. The Acela Express runs between New York and Boston and is capable of speeds up to 150 mph and it is the only train line in the US that meets the definition of high speed rail. But, because of space limitations the train’s speed usually hovers around 90 mph. South of New York the speed is just 80 mph. There are a lot of outdated rails and centenary systems and old bridges hindering speeds, but none of the appropriated funds seem directed at solving these problems.
For complete breakdown of who got how much money, go here.