In our latest Green Tech Chatter, we look at the current online buzz surrounding the future of high-speed rail. There are currently eleven corridors authorized for future development around the country, with plans to take on high-speed rail (HSR) services already underway in areas such as California and Illinois. The only quasi high speed rail system currently in place in the United States is the Acela Express run by Amtrak.
Although this week U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the designation of the Northeast Corridor as the final corridor for HSR development, not everyone agrees on a need for high-speed rail throughout the country. Questions being asked around HSR right now include why politicians like Florida Governor Rick Scott turned down over two billion dollars in federal funds, as well as whether or not Obama’s vision to connect 80 percent of Americans within the next 25 years to HSR can even be met. Even the Mad Men actors have been getting in on the debate.
Although standards vary some by country, the United States itself tends to define high-speed rail as rail transportation that travels at a speed above 90 mph. The Obama Administration has proposed a $53 billion plan, on top of HSR funds already released, to provide rail access to new communities. Those optimistic about HSR believe it will aid in high unemployment rates and trigger economic development, reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil, ease traffic congestion and reduce our country’s high carbon footprint. Those opposed feel it is a waste of money and a pipe dream at a time when Americans are more worried about the nation’s financial crisis.
Many states are already taking action to meet a deadline to receive additional high-speed funds recently made available after Florida’s exit from the HSR process. Applications are due on April 4th, and how the money will be dispersed is to be decided by a “merit based” system.
Below we present you some external links, without opinion on their content, to help you read more on the HSR topic.
- Federal Rail Administration: Information on U.S. HSR plans, including chronology and proposed corridors.
- Washington Post: “High-speed rail is a fast-track to Government Waste”
- Opinion piece from CEO of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association: “Time to Hop Aboard or Be Left Behind”
- California High Speed Rail: California’s high-speed rail state website
- Scientific American: Despite the Stimulus, High-Speed Rail Still Rides the Slow Track in the U.S.
- New York Times: How Flaws Undid Obama’s Hope for High-Speed Rail in Florida
- The Atlantic: When Rail Becomes Ridiculous
- Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus: A new Congressional caucus focused on HSR
- American High Speed Rail Alliance: A pro HSR group
- Reason Foundation [PDF]: Libertarian analysis of the Florida HSR line