For whatever reason, the Christmas holiday brought news about a variety of major high-speed rail projects around the country. Here’s the roundup:
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California‘s High-Speed Rail planners are hoping to get $15 to 20 billion out of the coming economic stimulus package. This money, in addition to the $10 billion tax payers approved in November, as well as a few billion more from municipalities and private groups, would allow for the completion of the first stage of the project, from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The potential flaw in this plan to take some of the federal stimulus money is that those funds are intended to “ready-to-build” projects, which the California High-Speed rail system certainly is not. In fact, current plans have construction on the project beginning in 2012 – and presumably (hopefully!) we’ll be out of the recession by then. One possible alternative, however, is to begin construction on grade crossings in identified segments of the corridor, individual projects that could be easily designed and built within the next year.
Nevada and California are simultaneously pushing forward the long-held idea of a maglev train between Anaheim and Las Vegas. The system, described on Wikipedia, has been appropriated small preliminary funds from the federal government, but those few millions are nothing compared to the billions a 269-mile long line would cost. They’d like to see this project, too, garner money from the economic stimulus bill.
We’ve never discussed this project on the transport politic before, but let it be clear that there are several reasons why its current form makes little sense:
- Maglev is far more expensive to build than regular HSR, and it’s not even that much faster. So what’s the big deal about it?
- As long as we know that California’s traditional HSR line is being built, isn’t this line to Nevada an obvious candidate for expansion? By using maglev technology, trips could only occur between the two cities at each end. If traditional HSR were used, however, direct trains could connect San Francisco and Vegas, or Vegas and San Diego, rather than just Vegas and Anaheim.
- The route’s terminus in Anaheim is completely nonsensical. Such a huge project deserves a connection to the biggest city in the Western United States, Los Angeles, not a secondary city.
We’ll keep the tabs on this project, obviously, but let it be known (if it matters to anyone), we will oppose it vehemently in its current form.
Meanwhile, the AP brings us news that the state of Texas is looking into taking advantage of the federal high-speed rail request for proposals that Secretary Mary Peters and Representative John Mica announced just before the holidays. The state’s major project, which has been labeled the “T-bone,” would connect Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and of course the capital Austin. This would be an ambitious project but would dramatically improve the connections between these cities, which are just the right distance apart to make HSR a valuable alternative.