The left is all atwitter over the Obama administration’s release of their High-Speed Rail Plan, which, as with most everything that comes out of the Obama administration these days, is long on hope, short on details, and completely out of touch with reality.
The plan includes an $8 billion “down payment” from the $787 billion stimulus package and calls for another $5 billion from the FY 2010 budget. This $13 billion will be spent in two rounds: 1) “on projects that can be completed quickly and yield measurable, near-term job creation”; and 2) funding for “comprehensive high-speed programs covering entire corridors”. Obama has identified ten such corridor’s including the “California Corridor” and the “Chicago Hub Network.”
Sounds nice and all, but the reality is the first round of spending will not go to anything that can be accurately called “high speed rail” and the second round of spending is comically short of what it would cost to implement Obama’s dreams. Heritage scholar Ron Utt explains:
In 1991 legislation was enacted to permit the Federal Railroad Administration to designate 10 high speed rail corridors. Because of the exceptionally high costs and limited benefits of HSR, nothing has ever been done to get anything underway on any of these corridors–until now, that is.
The definition of HSR, as applied to those in European and Asian countries, is passenger rail service that averages more than 150 miles per hour, which can only be achieved on very expensive, dedicated lines that serve only HSR. Since no such lines exist in the U.S., any HSR would have to first acquire a right of way, buy the land in it, lay the very costly track, and buy the new equipment.
Under the circumstances, the $8 billion is woefully short of what is needed to complete a single system, and the President and Congress know it, which is why the $8 billion should be viewed as little more than an amuse-bouche to keep the nation’s influential rail hobbyists happy and content.
Just to give you an idea of how expensive Obama’s plan would be, the USA Today reports that the California Corridor alone is estimated to cost $50 billion. We’re sure that Team Obama will find a home for the $13 billion in their train slush fund, but don’t expect to purchase your Houston, Texas-to-Portland, Maine high speed rail ticket in this life.