» With political figures failing to account for the long-term interests of their constituents, the U.S. continues down its confused path.
The opening of the new $32.5 billion Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link this week marked a significant milestone in the world effort to improve intercity rail systems. Though the development of fast train networks in China has not been without its failings, the connection of the nation’s two largest metropolitan regions — the tenth and nineteenth-largest in the world — is a human achievement of almost unparalleled proportions, especially since it was completed a year earlier than originally planned and just three years after construction began. It comes as the Chinese government celebrates its 90th anniversary.
With ninety daily trains traveling the 819-mile link at average speeds of up to 165 mph, the corridor will likely soon become the most-used high-speed intercity rail connection in the world. Because of safety concerns,
Continue reading In China’s High-Speed Successes, a Glimpse of American Difficulties »
» Despite its capital costs being almost entirely covered by Washington and plenty of evidence that private investors want to move forward, project is off the tracks for now.
Just days after the White House revealed its ambitions for a $53 billion, six-year plan for an American high-speed rail network, the place where it was all supposed to begin now appears to be out of the running. Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) announced that he would refuse $2.4 billion in federal funds to build a rail line between Orlando and Tampa. The project’s construction would have required $280 million in state aid to be completed, but projections had indicated that the line would cover its own operating costs.
The Obama Administration has funded the project more than any other outside of California and hoped that the scheme, which would have opened in 2016 as the first line in a
Continue reading Florida Governor Rick Scott Rejects Funding for Tampa-Orlando Intercity Rail Project »
» In sinking $800 million more into the Tampa-Orlando line, Obama Administration is making clear its interest in making this the nation’s model program for fast trains.
In terms of high-speed rail funding, the thinking of the current Department of Transportation is easy to understand: Of the dozens of projects proposed across the country, only one could offer true high-speed service and open before the end of President Obama’s second term, all within a relatively tight budget. That is Florida’s 84-mile Tampa-Orlando link, expected to be complete by 2015 at a cost of less than $3 billion. It is therefore no surprise that in the latest round of grants for fast train services, the project has been awarded enough money to virtually ensure its construction.
The DOT’s announcement, expected to be formalized on Thursday, will hand Florida $800 million of the $2.5 billion in total allocations
Continue reading With More Federal Funding, Florida in Striking Distance of New High-Speed Line »
» Newfound support for rail investment likely a result of push by DOT Secretary for the state to prop up train travel.
Update, 9 December 2009: Florida Senate passes the bill 27-10, an unexpectedly large majority, prepping the legislation for a signing by Governor Crist. Florida has put itself at the top, with California, in demanding federal funds for HSR.
Earlier this fall, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave Florida officials a choice: either buck up and support funding for the state’s commuter rail systems, or lose out on potential federal funding for a proposed high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando. Mr. LaHood’s challenge seems to have paid off: this week, state legislators began debating a law that would create a new Florida Rail Enterprise that would fund the existing Tri-Rail commuter system in Miami, ensure construction of the Orlando-area SunRail line, and take command of high-speed rail development. If
Continue reading Florida Convenes Special Legislative Session for Sunrail, Tri-Rail, High-Speed Rail »
» Project, competing for stimulus funds, ignores downtown Orlando completely.
For years, the state of Florida has been dreaming about a high-speed rail system connecting its largest cities, and in 2000, voters approved a constitutional amendment that would have required a network of trains operating at 120 mph and above to be built. In 2004, the Florida electorate — persistent in proving its shortsightedness, prodded on by then-Governor Jeb Bush — overwhelmingly struck down the law. The high-speed rail authority that was supposed to supervise the construction and operation of the project sat in unfunded purgatory for four years.
But the passage of the stimulus bill in early 2009 provided the state another opportunity to pursue the program, and the Florida High-Speed Rail Authority has reconstituted itself with the sole purpose of taking a slice of the $8 billion federal pie
Continue reading The Fatal Flaw of Florida High-Speed Rail »