It's no secret that the U.S. lags behind countries throughout Europe and Asia in the high-speed rail department. In 2009, the Obama administration announced a plan to catch the country up with an $8 billion high-speed rail project. But apparently, that wasn't enough money.
Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a strategy to spend a whopping $53 billion on high-speed rail over the next six years. It's a plan that will, according to Biden, bring the U.S. closer to giving 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail in the next 25 years—a goal highlighted in Obama's recent State of the Union address.
In the next year alone, the government will spend $8 billion on developing three corridors: a Core Express with trains traveling at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher, regional lines with train speeds of 90-125 mph, and emerging rail corridors with trains traveling up to 90 mph (to provide people access to the Core Express and regional lines).
More details will be revealed next week along with Obama's upcoming budget, but Republicans are already attacking the plan. "Rail projects that are not economically sound will not ‘win the future.’ It just prolongs the inevitable by subsidizing a failed Amtrak monopoly that has never made a profit or even broken even. Government won’t develop American high-speed rail. Private investment and a competitive market will," said Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster in a statement.
If previous experiences in planning high-speed rail corridors in the U.S. are any indication, the government will fight naysayers for the entire building process (see Trains magazine's piece about the battle between freight trains and passenger trains). We'll find out how well Obama's plan works soon enough; a high-speed route in Florida spanning from Tampa to Orlando will start construction this year and finish in 2014.
[Image by Ivan Walsh]