Obama's budget and high-speed rail

It appears President Obama isn't giving up on high-speed rail. In his proposed federal budget for 2014, he calls for a $40 billion investment over five years to fund the development of high-speed and other passenger-rail programs as part of an integrated national transportation strategy.

"This system will provide 80 percent of Americans with convenient access to a passenger-rail system, feature high-speed service, within 25 years,"  the president's budget document states. "The proposal also benefits freight rail and significantly restructures federal support for Amtrak to increase transparency, accountability and performance."

Calling for 80 percent of Americans to have "convenient access" to a passenger-rail system that features high-speed service in 25 years seems to be a softening of his pledge a few years ago, when he said 80 percent of Americans should have access to a high-speed system in 25 years. Still, Obama clearly isn't abandoning his vision for a U.S. high-speed rail system.

When it comes to investing in U.S. passenger-rail service, what do you think of Obama's proposed budget? Considering the partisan gridlock in Congress, is his proposal a waste of time, effort and money? Or, do you think he should advocate for an even greater investment of federal resources into further developing passenger rail in the United States, including high-speed rail service?

Let me know what you think by taking this week's poll on progressiverailroading.com, or by posting your opinion in response to this blog.

2 Replies

  • Without proposal asks to compare, it's hard to tell how adequate and how much of a compromise the $40b proposed allocation may be.  While the proposed budget is for five years, it amounts to less than the cost of the California project alone.  Adding to California, a truly high-speed New Northeast Corridor and an extension as far as Charlotte, NC and other proposals would far exceed the proposed level of funding for timely implementation.  

    Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for even current needs, let alone with increasing population and the inability to meet travel demand with the existing transportation system capacities.

    Rail passenger service funding has been relatively bi-partisan with both conservative rural and suburban areas benefiting as much as the liberal urban areas connected by the trains.

  • In reply to HarveyK400:

    I agree with HarveyK400 that the implementation time of 25 years is a very, very long time to wait for high-speed passenger rail. $40-billion divided by 5 years is $8-billion investment a year. $8-billion would only scratch the surface of costs needed to design, engineer, procure land, purchase operation systems, trainsets and construct a system in even one state! In order to provide "80 percent of Americans" with close access to high-speed rail, a spider-web of new and high-speed dedicated rail would have to cover most of the lower 48. And, that cost estimate based on current calculations of design, construction and operation could not be calculated to project 25 years ahead. There is simply no formula available to interpret the costs. Those costs would be incredibly immense. The US government would not be able to afford a public-tax-supported transit system of this nature. There is also the unknown factor of just how many of the populous would actually use the high-speed rail system!

    Genuine high-speed rail would actually be a wonderful technological advancement for our nation. Just the amount of new found transit science could propel other related industry in America. The benefits of all this would be very proactive.

    My vision would be to choose one system first; such as the California high-speed rail system. Build it, maintain it and find out just how many passengers would use the system. Do not build a system in increments or merge it into a portion of conventional rail as the CHSRA is planning on doing now. Instead, build the system complete covering the whole state length! LA to Sacramento. This would be the most cost effective and money saving way. Obligate the Federal Government to become a major stakeholder of the cost, and ask California taxpayers and bond investors to pay the rest! Then study the percentages of passenger loyalty. If it works; then expand nationwide.

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