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
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)

(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."

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B Wilds
May 30, 2015 10:02 AM CDT
The recent accident where Amtrak passengers were killed and mangled brought the subject of passenger rail travel and its future back into the headlines. To those who have given the subject much thought it is perfectly clear mass transit in America is broken and to make things worse the system is a big money loser. Passenger railroads must be redesigned or "Reinvented". A system to move people at a reasonable cost between city centers at an average speed of 125 miles an hour or more would eliminate the need for most smaller airports that are expensive to maintain and be a superior alternative for most trips. Below are some ideas on some of the issues surrounding such a system.
Aug 21, 2014 10:34 AM CDT
Moonbeam wants to bill a billion $ train from Madera to Fresno. A lot of farm workers may ride that train. But since the seahuggers have said that the delta smelt will die if we don't flush thousands of fresh water a day from the Sacramento river to the ocean. The farms have no water.
Aug 9, 2014 9:57 AM CDT
I think in high population areas it works. But unless you have a demand there for the service it is a losing proposition for the tax payer. This is the current problem with existing rail travel. It has to be constantly subsidized by state and federal funds.