Petra Todorovich, lead author of High-Speed Rail: International Lessons for U.S. Policy Makers, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, say that high speed rail in the U.S. is troubled but far from dead.
When it comes to high speed rail the U.S. is not at the top. European nations and China are leading the high speed rail race, currently China is laying 4,000 miles of track, and the trip from Shanghai to Beijing, about the distance between New York and Chicago, will take four hours. Granted, China has had its fair share of problems with its high speed rail systems recently; but China keeps moving forward.
Todorovich see this as a time for the U.S. to reset its high speed rail plans. Recent events by Congress in Washington D.C. have virtually killed any and all future funding for high speed rail in America. Additionally, the president’s $10 billion program for high speed rail has been pulled due to the high price tag in a poor economy and due to some public outcry.
Since current high speed rail projects are, at best, on hold now is a time to focus. Todorovich suggests focusing on areas of the country where high speed rail will work. Areas with plenty of space, cities that are close together and rule of air flight, and a population that is used to using rail as a means of transportation—those areas are the Northeast corridor, from Boston to Washington, and California.
These projects are not cheap. The Northeast corridor project would replace the existing Acela train line and is estimated to cost $100 billion. California also is estimated to cost $50 billion. Expensive projects but the return on investment, as shown by the international experience in Europe and China, would create jobs – 450,000 jobs through 2035 in California, that’s according to California’s HSR Authority. According to Amtrak 44,000 jobs would be made annually over 25 years plus 120,000 permanent jobs for the Northeast corridor alone.
Job creation is great, and much needed, but how does a nation that is trillions of dollars in debt pay for these projects. Legislators in Arizona has suggested an additional gas tax surcharge in the Northeast Corridor states—to which legislators in the Northeast said thanks Arizona how about you tax your own citizens and then, you know, send the money our way.
For Todorovich the future of high speed rail in America is not dead, the benefits of high speed rail are just too good to give up. Now is the time to rethink every aspect of high speed rail in America, lay out the plan, and grow the support over time. When the time is right, and like minded individuals are in power, then jump on the funding.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail.