Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

HSR backgrounder

American Chronicle, an online magazine, has an outstanding analysis fromj Eliza Krigman. She is an Editorial Assistant at the Center for Responsive Politics where she writes for Capital Eye, the organization´s money-in-politics blog. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005.

I It’s comprehensive; giving background, benefits, outlook, and roadblocks. Here is a taste.

Sen. John Kerry introduced the High-Speed Rail for America Act this week. The legislation proposes the creation of a central office to oversee the development of high-speed rail and, over the course of six years, provides $8 billion in tax exempt bonds, $10 billion in tax credit bonds for super high-speed intercity rail facilities, and $5.4 billion in tax credit bonds for rail infrastructure.

Compared to Europe and parts of Asia, the United States is many years behind in its development of high-speed rail (HSR). The Eurostar Rail connects London, Paris, and Brussels at speeds up to 186 mph. Japan´s bullet train travels at 180 mph and they are investing heavily in a train that will exceed 200 mph. Taiwan has trains also capable of reaching 186 mph. The only high-speed passenger train in the United States is the Acela (which operates in the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor), which can travel up to 150 mph but averages less than 86 mph between Washington, D.C. and New York City because of poor infrastructure and track conditions.

Her evaluation of why the United States is so far behind gets it all wrong. She says,

The attempts to move forward with the HSR have been set back by environmental concerns, right-of-way disputes and inconsistent political support. The FRA has designated eleven high-speed corridors across the country, which allows a corridor to receive specially targeted funding for highway-rail grade crossing safety improvements and recognizes that area as a center of HSR activity. Amtrak is willing to operate “Acela Regional” service in other state-sponsored corridors if given the funds for the necessary upgrades.

For somebody who only graduated college in 2005, Krigman has a remarkable grasp on transportation policy, so I am a bit taken back by the seeming “free pass” given to trucking, highway, and airline special interests. 

The other defect here, and it is minimal, is the “Amtrak-centro” tone taken toward future developments. Amtrak will be involved, but states and regional authorities will be calling the shots and that should be a strong selling point. 

Otherwise, a great article.It is important reading for rail advocates.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

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