High Speed Rail’s End

by Norm Leahy

The latest issue of Ken Orski’s “Innovation News Briefs,” delivers a blow to the hopes of those who thought that, one day, high speed trains would zip between Washington, DC and pokey old Richmond:

By including only a token $100 million for high-speed rail as a “placeholder” in their FY 2012 budget recommendations (a sum that is likely to be further cut in the House-Senate negotiations on the FY 2012 appropriations), Senate appropriators have done more than merely declare a temporary slowdown in the high-speed rail program. They have effectively given a vote of “no confidence” to President Obama’s signature infrastructure initiative. Along with their House counterparts who had denied the program any new money, the Senate lawmakers have sent a bipartisan signal that Congress has no appetite for pouring more money into a venture that many lawmakers have come to view as a poster child for wasteful government spending.

That doesn’t mean the feds aren’t trying to spend whatever monies they still have at their disposal. Quite the contrary:

In the meantime, the Department of Transportation has rushed to distribute the balance of the authorized HSR dollars, lest Congress decides to rescind any funds that remain unobligated. Continuing its practice of scattering money far and wide rather than focusing it on one or two worthwhile projects, the Federal Railroad Administration approved in September over $ 480 million worth of planning, engineering and construction grants “to improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail service” in 11 states. The beneficiaries are New York, Texas, New England (Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut), North Carolina, Virginia, Washington State, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The awards range from $149 million to New York State to as little as $13 million to the state of Oregon, and they average under $40 million per individual grant. It remains to be seen how quickly the recipient states will put these funds to work— and what kind of service improvements these grants will bring about.

Probably not much. As BR’s own Peter Galuszka noted in this Style Weekly piece from 2010, bringing the rails that run through Richmond and the preferred Main Street Station site up to high speed snuff would cost anywhere between $122 million and $600 million. The $44 million federal grant given to Virginia is reserved for “environmental analysis and preliminary engineering.”

In other words, the trains won’t be getting faster, but there will be a few more studies published.

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One response to “High Speed Rail’s End”

  1. See the post “Even with Fees, The Miracle of Flight Still a Bargain ” over ate mjperry.blogspot.com

    The cost of flying is DOWN from $0.28 per mile in 1980 to $0.14 today, even including al those extra fees.

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