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Published on January 28th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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High-Speed Rail for the US, Finally!

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January 28th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan 

Well, it has been a long time coming, but the US is finally putting some money into high-speed rail (HSR)!

Obama put a strong focus on this in his State of the Union speech last night — “From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains…. Tomorrow, I’ll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information.”

Now, the White House has just announced the 12 rail lines that will receive billions of dollars for HSR in the very near future. If these HSR projects come to fruition, the US may finally be level with Europe and China.

Will this be the start we need to transform our transportation system in the US?

Previously, I wrote about about North Carolina and Virginia’s chances for funding. They were asking for $5 billion out of the available $8 billion. Well, they were awarded funding, but not quite the $5 billion they were asking for. In order to provide funding for a wide variety of projects across the country, no one could get exactly the amount they wanted. NC and VA (together) are receiving $620 million for their projects. California, Florida and the Northeast are receiving the most funding.

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The following pages give a quick snapshot of the projects awarded the funding. For more information on any of the projects, follow the links to the White House press releases.

Northeast Region

The Northeast Region is receiving a total of $1.191 billion dollars for thousands of miles of new, upgraded or planned tracks. The projects in this region span 11 states (Maine,Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland) and Washington, DC. The region includes 7 intercity passenger rail corridors.

As the White House’s press release states:

“The Northeast region currently has the most integrated passenger rail network in the country. The vision for these rail corridors is to invest in projects that will boost speeds, cut trip times and strengthen the system as a real alternative to air and car travel.”

Image Credit 1: The White House
Image Credit 2: The White House

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Duude

    High speed rail is among the most economically-challenged ideas of the past century. Projected costs are always dramatically understated, and projected passenger usage, based on previous government projections for Amtrak, are always dramatically overstated. Later, the fix will be greater subsidization of passenger tickets while applying more taxation on alternative forms of transportation. The end result of this, and other pie-in-the-sky ideas, is a lower standard of living for all.

  • Duude

    High speed rail is among the most economically-challenged ideas of the past century. Projected costs are always dramatically understated, and projected passenger usage, based on previous government projections for Amtrak, are always dramatically overstated. Later, the fix will be greater subsidization of passenger tickets while applying more taxation on alternative forms of transportation. The end result of this, and other pie-in-the-sky ideas, is a lower standard of living for all.

  • Johng

    I’m frustrated that we’re only just now kinda-sorta getting the ball rolling with this. We should have had this decades ago.

  • Johng

    I’m frustrated that we’re only just now kinda-sorta getting the ball rolling with this. We should have had this decades ago.

  • Dave

    No wait, privatization is such a great idea, let’s first privatize our existing transportation infrastructure – roads and highways! It will be great. Every time you exit one highway and enter another, you’ll stop at a toll booth to pay the company that owns it. Oh, that’s inconvenient so we’ll add tracking systems to every car so the road companies can be paid fairly. Oh that’s too “big brother” so we’ll just give one big company a monopoly. But monopolies are famously inefficient and bloated. Damn, it’s almost like the government should do it!

    Seriously, road transportation is already incredibly heavily subsidized. Asking private rail companies to compete with government-funded road transport and turn a profit is absurd.

  • Dave

    No wait, privatization is such a great idea, let’s first privatize our existing transportation infrastructure – roads and highways! It will be great. Every time you exit one highway and enter another, you’ll stop at a toll booth to pay the company that owns it. Oh, that’s inconvenient so we’ll add tracking systems to every car so the road companies can be paid fairly. Oh that’s too “big brother” so we’ll just give one big company a monopoly. But monopolies are famously inefficient and bloated. Damn, it’s almost like the government should do it!

    Seriously, road transportation is already incredibly heavily subsidized. Asking private rail companies to compete with government-funded road transport and turn a profit is absurd.

  • nb

    All a great idea (and I really love it quite frankly) until you realize all the waste that will likely occur. I have little doubt the cost will be double that projected. The technology will likely be from overseas (as there is none for this in the US), providing lots of jobs in other countries. Finally, these will all likely operate at enormous losses (you could probably safely bet your home on it). America’s logistics are not the same as those in Europe.

    I would have preferred that we removed some anti-trust laws and encouraged (via massive tax credits) rail companies, who already own huges tracts of right-of-ways, air-lines, and even bus companies, to work together to provide high speed rail where it makes sense.

    This will just end up as another tax-payer subsidized rail that over time, due to politics, will become an increasingly bloated bureacracy (likely with many more SEIU members). Nope – figure out a way to get the private sector to do this, keep the government out of it.

    If these are to be run by the government, it should be mandated they cannot run at a loss. Ideally, they’d at the very least be managed by contracted private companies, who would by law be dropped and banned from the next bidding if they didn’t meet financial operational criteria that would be frequently reviewed.

  • Jac

    High speed rail outside maybe the eastern corridor will not meet any ridership projections. Once they are built, you will have to pay for them forever when they fail to meet expectations. But then again, that’s the way the bureaucrats want it.

  • Jac

    High speed rail outside maybe the eastern corridor will not meet any ridership projections. Once they are built, you will have to pay for them forever when they fail to meet expectations. But then again, that’s the way the bureaucrats want it.

  • Johng

    I’m frustrated that we’re only just now kinda-sorta getting the ball rolling with this. We should have had this decades ago.

  • Johng

    I’m frustrated that we’re only just now kinda-sorta getting the ball rolling with this. We should have had this decades ago.

  • Sven

    Go on Youtube and search for SkyTran. That is the kind of system we should be building.

  • Sven

    Go on Youtube and search for SkyTran. That is the kind of system we should be building.

    • Rob Heusdens

      @Sven
      What are you talking about? This system has not even be built, not even to demonstrate the viability of such a technology, and I doubt it ever will.

  • Peter

    Your article states, “If these HSR projects come to fruition, the US may finally be level with Europe and China.” However, most of the corridors being discussed (with the exception of FL and CA) top out in speed at 110 mph. This is nowhere close to anything elsewhere. Japanese “Bullet” trains now run regularly at speeds up to 186 mph, in addition to the French TGV, Italian TAV, Spanish AVE, and German ICE among the fastest trains in the world. Again, only Florida and California’s trains would reach these speeds under the current plan. Simply, this plan will not put the US on par with these other countries.

  • Peter

    Your article states, “If these HSR projects come to fruition, the US may finally be level with Europe and China.” However, most of the corridors being discussed (with the exception of FL and CA) top out in speed at 110 mph. This is nowhere close to anything elsewhere. Japanese “Bullet” trains now run regularly at speeds up to 186 mph, in addition to the French TGV, Italian TAV, Spanish AVE, and German ICE among the fastest trains in the world. Again, only Florida and California’s trains would reach these speeds under the current plan. Simply, this plan will not put the US on par with these other countries.

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