US Spent $11B Spinning Wheels on High-Speed Rail

Obama's 2011 promise was 'unadulterated hype,' critics say

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 7, 2014 11:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – Since 2009, $11 billion has gone toward speeding up passenger trains in the US, yet there's little to show for it, the New York Times reports. Though the Obama administration isn't wholly to blame—GOP opposition, community protests, and lawsuits have also ridden the brakes—an expert says the White House's management of funds has been "as clumsy as its superintending of the Affordable Care Act's rollout." The money has gone into upgrading existing Amtrak services, which max out at 110 mph—rather than, say, service in the promising Northeast Corridor—and now, Obama wants $10 billion more.

While the US will likely never compete with the systems of China or Europe, Obama's 2011 promise "to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail" within 25 years was "unadulterated hype," says one critic. "And scattering money all around the country rather than focusing it on areas ripe for high-speed rail didn't help." Obama's first transportation secretary, however, compares the projects to the Interstate System of highways, noting things like this take time and money. Amtrak's president, meanwhile, notes his funding comes from annual appropriations from Congress. "I don't sit back and wait for $15 billion to rebuild the Northeast Corridor," he says. "I do what I can do."

This undated file photo provided by the California High Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's rendering of a high-speed train traveling along the California coast.
This undated file photo provided by the California High Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's rendering of a high-speed train traveling along the California coast.   (AP Photo/California High Speed Rail Authority)
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