Common sense and high-speed rail

One of the most active topics on our forums, and one of the most commented-on topics among our editorials, is the topic of high-speed rail and its practicality. The most recent common-sense comment on the subject comes from a professor at Cornell University.

Richard Geddes, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University and author of “The Road to Renewal: Private Investment in U.S. Transportation Infrastructure,” says:

“High-speed rail is a commendable policy objective, but it's time to get serious about how to pay for it. At currently estimated construction costs of at least $50 million per mile, the roughly $10 billion in federal funding allocated thus far represents only a small down payment, or about 200 miles total. With additional federal funds frozen and state budgets stretched thin, public-private partnerships will be essential to affording the monumental costs of building, operating and maintaining the types of true high-speed rail found in other countries, where speeds regularly exceed 150 miles per hour.

“It's time to focus our high-speed rail investment on those places where it makes sense. The Administration and state entities should focus their efforts on attracting private investment, and on ensuring that the systems built meet real market needs. The Northeast Corridor, which stands to receive nearly $800 million of the funds awarded today, could be a model for this type of partnership.

“Taxpayers alone can't afford to shoulder the enormous costs of true high-speed rail. If high-speed rail is initiated in areas where it is economically justified, then private industry will willingly share in this investment in our future.”

Good luck attracting the type of private investment Geddes mentions. Private investors get interested in projects that promise to turn a profit. That can't be said of most high-speed rail plans. If investments from non-government entities are what drive high-speed rail, you will be able to count on the fingers of one hand the number of high-speed rail lines that get built.

More of our high-speed rail coverage here:

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