The New York Times first released a more blunt headline of “Delays Persist for U.S. High Speed Rail” before before taking it down a notch and going with “$11 Billion Late, High-Speed Rail Is Inching Along.” We guess that’s less blunt.
Yes, President Obama has asked for nearly $11 billion to be spent since 2009, with the projects having “gone mostly nowhere” and, sure, “the administration made the mistake of parceling out the money to upgrade existing Amtrak service” and “none of the money originally went to service the Northeast Corridor, the most likely place for high-speed rail.” Sure, OK. Do we need to be reminded of this?
Well we see some baby steps in the long slog that is to be widespread high-speed rail in the U.S. First, an appeals court in California just threw out a ruling that was hamstringing “state bond funding for the $68 billion” high-speed rail project that will one day connect San Francisco and Los Angeles. The project will “get an infusion of funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program” and has already seen construction begin.
In fact, according to the Sacramento Business Journal, “private investors are starting to express interest in funding part” of the high-speed line. Why would private companies invest in a government-operated high-speed train? It seems the “state might ask private companies to provide loans that are paid back with interest.” The companies that have so far expressed interest include the recently-enlarged AECOM, Siemens, and Grupo ACS – just a few of several engineering and construction firms that could benefit from such a large project. So the state could get a new high-speed rail line and some companies could get some big business – why don’t we invest more in infrastructure again?
Finally, a shorter but important stretch of track in New Jersey is on its way to being higher-speed ready in just a few years. According to NJ.com, a “23-mile stretch between Trenton and New Brunswick” – track that “has had the same overhead wire system since 1935” – is being modernized and will be able to travel at speeds of up to 160 mph by 2017.
The stretch currently has a speed limit of 135 mph and suffers delays due to occasional drooping lines and other such issues. Improvements will “employ hundreds of Mercer County residents,” and will “offer passengers quicker and safer travel to and from Northern New Jersey and New York City.” Imagine that – spending money as a way to create jobs and improve valuable infrastructure – who would’ve thunk it!
So high speed rail still has a ways to go and, frankly, ratpag is amazed anything is being done with the current state of public investment in anything but defense spending. So kudos to New Jersey and California for somehow figuring out a way to get some high-speed rail work done (we’ll also assume that some of that money is coming from cash-strapped Amtrak or, at least, the Federal Railroad Administration). Keep it up!