Vice President Biden announced last week the Obama Administration’s plan to put $53 billion toward upgrading and building a national, high-speed rail network. The administration has already allocated $10.5 billion to passenger rail programs, with the majority of funding going to projects in the planning stage in California and Florida. In fact, California will benefit again with the largest chunk of the new rail budget going toward the Golden State’s $43 billion bullet train project plan. But that’s all assuming Congress loosens the purse strings enough to let the plan survive. Immediately after the announcement, House Republicans publicly decried the plan, questioning its merits. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica of Florida said previous administrations’ high-speed rail projects were failures, and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania called the plan “insanity,” but did express support for a high-speed rail network in the Northeast where the population is dense. So will the new plan make it through the Republican controlled House of Representatives that is already hell-bent on cutting spending at every corner? And even if it does, how successful will a high-speed rail network be in a day and age during which technology advances leaps and bounds seemingly every day? If for no other reason, people might like the thought of saving the money that would normally have been spent on expensive gasoline.
Leslie McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Villanova University’s College of Engineering
Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary for Policy, United States Department of Transportation