Monday, May 16, 2011

'High-Speed' Trains Won't Run at High Speeds

I love train travel... but is it too late to bring competent rail travel to the US?

The article below is from Newsmax, a Conservative Republican news organ. Obama's 'High-Speed' Trains Won't Run at High Speeds
They're calling it the "train to nowhere."

California is ready to spend $5.5 billion to build a high-speed rail line from Corcoran, a town about 30 miles south of Fresno known for the prison housing Charles Manson, to Borden, a ghost town north of Fresno.

But trains on the line in the state's Central Valley are not scheduled to stop at either Corcoran or Borden.

It's true that the roughly 70-mile line would be the first leg of a planned rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles estimated to cost between $43 billion and $81 billion. But there is no guarantee that once that leg is built, the entire line will then be constructed, leading Democratic State Sen. Alan Lowenthal to tell CNBC, "I don't know if it's a train to nowhere, but it could possibly be an orphan set of tracks."

At least the first leg will be built to accommodate trains traveling at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. Other plans for so-called "high-speed" train travel — a pet project of President Barack Obama — would achieve speeds of no more than 110 miles per hour, "which high-speed rail aficionados do not even consider to be true high-speed rail," a report from the Cato Institute observed.

Congress appropriated $8 billion for high-speed rail in Obama's 2009 stimulus bill and $2 billion more in the 2010 appropriations bill.

But newly elected governors in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin rejected rail projects in their state, and Congress declined to provide more funds in 2011.

"President Obama's dream of connecting 80 percent of Americans to a high-speed rail line appears to be dead," Cato Institute's Downsizing the Federal Government website declared. But the $10 billion already committed will go toward several questionable projects, according to the site:

• Illinois is spending more than $3 billion to add three trains daily to the current five between Chicago and St. Louis and increase the average speed of trains on the line from 51.6 miles per hour to 56.8 mph, saving travelers 30 minutes on the current 5 1/2-hour trip.

• Washington State is spending $700 million to add two trains per day to the current three between Seattle and Portland, Ore., and boost speeds from 53.4 mph to 56.1 mph. That will save travelers 10 minutes on the current 3 1/2-hour trip.

• North Carolina is spending $545 million to increase speeds between Charlotte and Raleigh by about 3 mph, saving travelers 12 minutes on the current 3.2-hour trip.

"While high-speed trains in Europe and Japan are technologically impressive, nearly all the routes in those jurisdictions lose money and need large subsidies to stay afloat," the site concludes. "America's geography is even less suited for a successful high-speed rail system than Europe or Japan because our cities are less dense and spaced farther apart. The federal government should withdraw its support for high-speed rail, and instead focus on major aviation and highway reforms to improve the nation's mobility."

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