Off the Rails
A high-speed rail model for a
project in California, USA
PHOTO COURTESY OF US HIGH SPEED RAIL ASSOCIATION
HIGH;SPEED RAIL PROJECTS are off to a
slow start in the United States.
More than a year ago, U.S. President Barack
Obama heralded a new era of transportation,
devoting $8 billion to 13 high-speed rail projects.
Now he’s struggling mightily to get his vision
back on track with a six-year $53 billion spending blitz. The cash infusion will be used on projects to develop trains that could travel up to 250
miles (402 kilometers) per hour and to connect
existing rail lines to new routes.
The goal is to provide 80 percent of U.S.
travelers with access to high-speed rail within
25 years, potentially transforming the way a car-obsessed nation travels.
And it could happen—in theory.
The United States has more than a half-dozen
major high-speed rail projects in development,
says Joe Shelhorse, vice president of member
services at U.S. High-Speed Rail Association, an
advocacy group in Washington, D.C., USA.
The grand plans call for high-speed tracks
through some of the country’s busiest travel
routes, including California, Illinois, Florida and
the Northeast Corridor (between Boston, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.).
The big question now is whether they will
ever break ground.
“We need to get serious about getting these
projects underway,” Mr. Shelhorse says. “They all
have plans engineered to some extent, but now
we need to get to the next level.”
That’s proving to be far more difficult than
expected, as several high-
profile, high-speed proj-
ects hit roadblocks.
>> NOT SO FAST
Not all of the proposed rail projects are aimed
at creating blindingly fast train systems. Some
of the proposed $53 billion will be invested in
projects to overhaul tracks, expand bridges
and automate crossovers. By updating the
time-sucking infrastructure, trains can whip by
much of the gridlock.