Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

High Speed Rail funds should be targeted: BNSF CEO

Dow Jones files a report from Austin that may become formative in transportation discussions.

“I’m concerned (the money) will be spread like peanut butter” nationwide and have little impact, said Chief Executive Matthew K. Rose, speaking to the Austin Economic Club, a local business group. “I’m afraid it’ll be a missed opportunity.”

The federal stimulus package includes $8 billion in seed money for development of high-speed passenger rail service, and U.S. President Barack Obama also has called for an additional $5 billion over the next five years.

Rose sees little benefit for operating “host” railroads, and emphasizes the cost of developing 15-2- true HSR corridors. Nonetheless, he seems genuinely supportive of the concept.

Additionally, Rose says he sees no momentum for HSR in Texas and contends that nobody in D. C. is talking about the Texas T-bone.

Rose focuses the debate as the development of true European style HSR. At TFA, we have been supporting an incremental approach. The disadvantage of this is exactly what Rose contends, HSR never happens anywhere.

Politically, our position has the advantage of giving various constituencies a tiny slice of the pie and there is an improvement in local rail service. One point to remember is that we are in a transportation deficit because of interest based political decisions. If our viewpoint prevails, true HSR is moved to an indefinite future time.

Rose stakes out a reasonable position. Devoting the entire $13 billion to a single European style HSR project makes completion much more likely. In our political climate, his purist position, while containing many positive attributes, is unlikely.

It benefits those of us who support a rationale transportation policy to be intellectually honest about the choices and their consequences.

This may sound very trite, but I think we might all want to remember that we live in a very imperfect world. This ain’t Burger King and we can’t always have it our way.

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

6 Responses

  1. Cal says:

    BNSF seems very willing to work with CAHSR in the Central Valley ..

  2. Spokker says:

    BNSF has a reputation of treating the passenger trains that operate on their tracks a lot better than Union Pacific.

  3. Mad Park says:

    There should be nothing inherently “wrong” in building a demonstration HSR project. It will, however, eat all of the US$8B or US$13B currently proposed and thus deprive all other areas of any improvements at all. It must be remembered that a comprehensive US system of High Speed, moderately High Speed and regional connecting trains (plus long distance trains) of 40,000+ miles will require 20-30 years to complete and cost perhaps US$1 trillion in 2009 US$. No cheap fixes to 60 years of negligence!

  4. Anonymous says:

    A few points:

    1) we already have a nearly-complete hsr corridor, and it runs from DC to Boston. If anywhere should become the demonstrator, that should be it.

    2) there are incredibly important corridors that have no service at all; for instance Chicago to Atlanta. Bringing even conventional rail would be a win, and get more people with skin in the game.

    Getting people used to the idea of trains will be easier when they can actually get to where they want to go in a reasonably direct manner.

  5. HockeyFan says:

    Reading between the lines, a major freight rail CEO says let’s not use fed stimulus $ improve my freight tracks, let’s build separate HSR lines. This shows that even the more pro-passenger rail freight companies, still view freight and passenger trains as an oil & water mix.

  6. HSR Advocate says:

    The Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation (THSRTC) and the Texas T-Bone have been building the support of the Texas Caucus, and has been assured support of the Transportationi chair in the House. The statement about needing all of the stimulous funds for one project assumes no other method of financing beyond federal funds. Our research shows private public partnerships available to develop high speed rail in certain areas of the US. High speed rail does not exist in the US nor does the infrastructure exist to build it. It is amazing that a class one rail CEO sees the government as the solution to our transportation problems.

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