Mark Stencel’s comment on the post below concerning his original CQ Weekly column is herewith moved to the front page. This is good stuff.
In case anyone here is looking for the March GAO report on which much of my CQ column was based, you’ll find it here…
It’s a good, balanced economic reality check on all aspects of the U.S. high-speed rail discussion, with interesting findings on current proposals, past efforts in this country, and existing projects in France, Japan and Spain. The report helpfully sums up and, to the extend possible, enumerates the fiscal challenges while also acknowledging that there are potential societal benefits that policy makers might well decide justify the investments, even if they are not entirely offset by potential revenue.
Susan Fleming, GAO’s director of physical infrastructure issues, summarized the report’s findings succinctly in her prepared testimony for an April 1 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on high-speed rail. “In summary,” she wrote, “high speed rail does not offer a quick or simple solution to relieving congestion on our nation’s highways and airways. High speed rail projects are costly, risky, take years to develop and build, and require substantial up-front public investment as well as potentially long-term operating subsidies. Yet the potential benefits of high speed rail — both to riders and nonriders — are many.”
It is a good idea to be cautious of the promises of true high speed rail. It must be kept in mind, however, that these provide many good jobs in construction and, more importantly, operation.
Here at TFA, we are big fans of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association and its proposal for a network of conventional “fast” lines. Cost of start up is less and a lot quicker. Benefits many, including the jobs and improved transportation service to smaller communities.