Published on December 30th, 2009 | by Zachary Shahan13
North Carolina and Virginia Ask for $5 Billion for High-Speed Rail (but Not the Only Ones)
December 30th, 2009 by Zachary Shahan
People in North Carolina and Virginia must have seen what’s going on in China with high-speed rail and decided they wanted some of that. They are now requesting over $5 billion in funding for high-speed rail.
Actually, as a former resident of both North Carolina and Virginia professionally and personally involved in this topic, I can say they have been working on this topic and wanting better rail for quite a long time.
Now, though, with the federal government pledging $8 billion in stimulus funding for high-speed rail, they may have their chance.
However, they are not the only ones who want this money!
North Carolina (NC) and Virginia (VA) are requesting over $5 billion of the $8 billion the government has pledged and both are nearly finished with preliminary environmental studies (something the Federal Railroad Administration favors when deciding who to give the money to).
Rob Kulat, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, says that in total states have requested $57 billion for high-speed rail networks!
Yoav Hagler, an associate planner for America 2050, says that the places with the best chances of getting the money may actually be in California, the Midwest and the Northeast. According to a report he co-authored, the routes with the greatest demand are San Francisco to Los Angeles, Washington to Boston, and Chicago to Minneapolis, Detroit and St. Louis.
He says, “These are the places that have the population, the economies and the existing travel markets to really support these systems.”
However, North Carolina and Virginia have done a lot of preparatory work and have been planning for this opportunity for years. With the Northeast not as far along in environmental study, they may be able to edge the Northeast out of some of that money. They may have a chance at getting at least some of their $5.3 billion request. Patrick Simmons, North Carolina’s rail division director, says, “We’ve been progressing down a pathway that would lead us to this day.”
The money is expected to start being given out in late January or early February. With this amount of interest in clean transportation projects that would also create tens of thousands of jobs each, perhaps more money will go in this direction in the future.
As exciting as this opportunity is for people who want high-speed rail in the US, the high-speed rail we are talking about here does not quite compare to the high-speed rail in China, Japan, France, and Germany. NC and VA’s high-speed rail would average 86 mph (compared to its current 54 mph). China’s newest high-speed train averages 217 mph, Japan’s best averages 172 mph, France’s 151 mph, and Germany’s 144 mph.
I think if we want to compete with other major economies and societies, the US needs to raise this $8 billion funding to something exponentially higher. Clearly, states are waiting for the money. I think this is a good start, though — takes a little longer for trains to get going, but once they pick up speed….
Image Credit 1: zizzybaloobah via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 2: Thomas Hawk via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 3: Ian Lewis via flickr under a Creative Commons license