the high-speed rail enigma

Last year, the government designated $8 billion for the development of high-speed rail lines in the US, adding another $2.5 billion this past December.  This was welcome news to those who have long hoped to see a rail revival in this country, especially one with modern trains like those in europe and asia that can travel in excess of 200mph. This however, may just be wishful thinking given the actual challenges to creating such an infrastructure in the US.  The problems are numerous, and compounded by one overarching issue, cost.  Modern rail, apparently, is one of the most expensive forms of infrastructure there is.

This past week, The gov announced they would be allotting the first big chunk of that money, $2.5 billion to the state of Florida, which has completed plans for a high-speed link-up between Tampa and Orlando.  This is just the 1st phase of a state-wide network which will eventually connect with other major cities like Miami.  However, the estimated cost of just this 1st phase is about $3.5 billion! That’s pretty steep considering the route is only 85 miles across the pancake-flat I-40 corridor. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s great, I’m just not holding out hope for anyone to announce my dream line from New York to Chicago any time soon. At over $41 million per mile, even more if there’s any significant terrain to cross, that’s gonna be tough sell in this economy.

But Kudos to Florida for getting their act together.  Most states have completely forsaken whatever potential there is left for rail in their regions, and at this rate don’t stand much of a chance of getting their hands on any of that high-speed cheese.  With two major airports and destinations like Disney World, maybe shorter routes like this make the most sense.  It’s tough to say, but I will remain optimistic, mostly because I just love trains.


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