Gallery: Republicans Begin Fight Against High-Speed Rail in US

 

President Obama’s goal of building a high-speed rail network that at least 80 percent of Americans will have access to by 2025, is facing major resistance in Congress. Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden announced a $53 billion, six year plan to get the U.S. high-speed rail network going with $8 billion over the next year spent towards building new lines and upgrading existing passenger lines in areas such as the northeast and midwest. Unfortunately, Republicans are having none of it. The House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) unveiled a partial list of 70 proposed cuts, including eliminating $1 billion for high-speed rail.

The opposition doesn’t believe high-speed rail is economically viable at a time when our national debt is so high. They have argued in the past to see more more private investments and a competitive market to develop the rail network. Even Republican John Mica, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, who is a backer of high-speed rail said in reaction to the $53 billion plan, “This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio.”

Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin have previously returned federal money for high-speed rail projects in their states, citing high expenses.

With Republicans controlling the House, high-speed rail has a tough time ahead. Of course, it’s too early to tell what the outcome will be, but Obama says that high-speed rail would create construction jobs, help the economy and reduce our dependence on oil. America needs to have alternatives to the automobile, and hopefully politics won’t prevent that move.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

An efficient high-speed rail line in the US could create jobs and reduce our dependence on polluting foreign oil. However, Republicans are opposed to it because of the high costs. If members of Congress can reach a decision that could spur on the progress of a high speed rail system while keeping the budget in mind, we could be on the road to seeing Obama’s vision become a reality.

Via WSJ

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8 Comments

  1. switchtodem2012 December 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    We as a people need to start looking at where we want this country to be in 50 years. It seems that the Republican Party is only interested in anything that will expand their main constituent’s (Big Oil) pocket book. Everything I read tells me that the world has reached its peak oil production and we will be looking at higher prices and limited supply in the coming decades.

    Why not begin the process of building a national HSR Network now while there is time to do it right? I am afraid that the only way this country is going to move forward with President Obama’s vision is for we the people to vote in Democratic majorities in both chambers of congress.

  2. lazyreader February 14, 2011 at 8:14 am

    On average, a typical resident of France rides the high-speed rail only about 400 miles per year. So what? They drive twenty times as much as they ride high speed rail. They fly 3 times as much as they ride the rail just to get around France (that doesn’t include international travel).

    In Japan they ride high speed rail only a little more than 400 miles a year. They drive over ten times as much as they ride high-speed rail. They ride the low speed rail almost 3 times as much because it’s far more cost competitive. The low speed rail competes with the high speed rail. The high-speed train from Tokyo to Nagano, probably the most expensive high-speed rail route in the world. it cost more than half a billion dollars per mile in 1997 dollars, no doubt because much of the route is in tunnels. The train is practically empty to end at Nagano, a city of only 350,000 people. The United States doesn’t have any routes with the populations found in the Tokyo-to-Osaka corridor, and Japan only has one, which is why nearly all other Japanese high-speed rail lines fail to cover their capital costs. They built one line to begin with and it’s the only one to make a profit, until the Japanese government got involved and ordered rail to be built everywhere, turning the system to a huge money pit. They spent 300 billion dollars overall to build it’s entire and when it became to expensive to maintain, they eventually sold it to private rail companies for less than 50 cents on the dollar and despite privatization they still receive generous subsidies.

    The Interstate highway system was built on a pay-as-you-go basis: no borrowing in anticipation of future federal gas tax revenues. This introduced feedback into the system: if people didn’t drive, there was no money to build roads. That’s why it took longer than expected to complete the systems: not because people didn’t drive on the interstates–they drove on them like crazy–but because neither Congress nor the states indexed gas taxes to inflation. High-speed rail advocates want to do without feedback. They want to spend billions of dollars before one wheel turns. If no one rides the trains, they’ll call them a success anyway, or say we just need to “complete the system” to get people to start riding. The Interstate Highway System extends 47,000 miles. After adjusting for inflation, cost less than $450 billion (less than $10 million a mile or about $2 million per lane mile) and truly connected people in all of the contiguous 48 states. The average American travels 4,000 miles per year on the interstates. And, contrary to what many rail advocates claim, the interstates were 100 percent paid for out of user fees in the form of gas taxes, tire taxes and tolls, etc. There’s no reason to think state highways couldn’t be paid for like that too. At least then people will get exactly what they pay for and use it.

  3. gadams5643 February 14, 2011 at 12:44 am

    republicans. shame , shame , shame. dont steal the future. with hsr, europe look more advanced than the US

  4. clarketom February 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Amtrack receives over 1.5 billion a year in subsidies because it’s NOT profitable. So we should spend 53 billion building a high speed service no one will use? And then subsidize it as well? Real simple , WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO SPEND!

  5. xenosilvano February 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    @LazyReader – lets see what you have to say 14 years from now.

    Making the sacrifice now will make things easier later on.

  6. XenoSilvano February 11, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Damn them Republicans, why won’t you give it a rest.

  7. caeman February 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Lazyreader, well written!

    Just think how many buses and drivers that $53 Billion could buy and hire for 30 years to drive. Or maybe just buy 1.3 million Americans a Nissan Leaf.

  8. lazyreader February 11, 2011 at 7:41 am

    More power to them. I may not a Republican.

    The United States makes extensive use of its rail system for “freight”. American freight railroads are the busiest on earth, moving more freight than any rail system in any other country moving more than four times as much freight than all of Western Europe’s freight railroads put together. Nearly all railroad corridors (not including local transit systems) are owned by private business that provide freight service. Amtrak simply pays these companies for the right to use the tracks for passenger service. Because most freight operators who share track with passenger trains, don’t even want trains going that fast. If they want trains zipping along at 150+ miles per hour, they’re gonna have to build rail entirely from scratch at enormous cost’s. Only Union Pacific ever commented on 110 mile per hour trains co-existing with their lines. Nearly all the others want less than 90 mph or less than that. I’ve read articles that said, private companies have backed out of these investment plans or their simply not interested at all. I’m wondering what my incentive to take HSR is when I could probably take the bus for far less money. While it may take longer overall compared to a train, you save a lot of dollars per hour. Over a dozen existing private bus companies [Megabus, Greyhound] exist to take people from city to city. Their not demanding billions of dollars to buy fancy new gold plated buses. Greyhound may be more pricey than the others but offers the services such as internet, electric power plug-in, ample legroom. If for instance I wanted to go from Baltimore to Boston, it would cost me 3-6 dollars on Megabus, 55-66 dollars on Greyhound, and 157-379 dollars on Amtraks “Acela”. It would only cost 90-154 dollars on the slower moving [normal train] the “Northeast Regional”. Amtrak offers incentives for trips costing 49 dollars by planning ahead, true but I can get a Megabus seat for 1.50 dollars by planning ahead. The bus only takes 2 hours longer but I’m saving over 25 dollars per hour not riding the train.

    Counting only scheduled intercity bus service, buses move about 2.5 times as many passenger miles as Amtrak. I’ve checked Amtrak fares; the lowest price I managed to find while looking was 68 dollars [for the ''Northeast Regional''; a non high-speed rail route]. The Acela’s price was typically always 90 dollars or more for one ticket. 60 bucks will get me ten Megabus seats. So you’d pay 90-300 dollars on Amtrak tickets, when you could buy busfare with pocket change? If time was really your priority, you’d probably just fly there. Amtrak has only 24 departures per day where as individual bus companies have over a hundred. Overall the Acela really doesn’t go that fast and has to slow down often due to noise complaints in neighborhoods or gradients to deal with or quality of rail track. The ”Northeast Regional” may be slower but its cheaper, has more stops and is more widely used than Acela.

    There’s actually two types of high-speed rail. From existing or from scratch. Taking existing rail usually owned by freight services to which they share and upgrading it so trains can go faster to up to 110 miles per hour at the cost of 5 to 10 million dollars per mile. However many freight companies have said they don’t even want trains going that fast. Companies like CSX and Santa Fe said they don’t want trains going anymore than 90 miles per hour. Norfolk Southern said they don’t trains going any more than 79 milers per hour. Only Union Pacific commented they’re willing to have 110 mile per hour trains co-existing with their freight trains. If you want anything faster than that you have to build entirely from scratch. In flatland it costs minimum of 30 million dollars per mile and as much as 100 million dollars per mile or more in the mountains; not to mention the costs building bridges or tunnels so they don’t have to share old track or slow down. So the cost of building from scratch over 500 hundred miles of rail track from Washington DC to Maine could build a whole lot of bus lanes with that kind of money and move a helluva lot more people.

    Acela is one of the few profitable Amtrak routes. And despite the billions they’ve already spent, they only managed to capture less than six percent of the travel market in the Northeast. That’s the best they could do. Still they wanna build high-speed rail everywhere. And in California and Florida or other places it may only capture less than one percent of the travel market. If Amtrak is gonna have trains zipping along the rails at 150 mph or more, they are gonna have to build brand new tracks…..from scratch at an enormous cost. And the energy their supposed to save is marginal to the enormous amount of energy spent building new infrastructure. Even before it pays off, they forget the rails are gonna need constant maintenance and further energy spent rebuilding every 10 years or so to keep it moving so fast. Buses are far far more flexible. Bus routes can be re-routed to accommodate where people live and work. Trains can’t, there built as extremely rigid models; declines only adapt by raising fares and their not going to skip a station even if it has no passengers. Your just better off as a community or town not building trains by not having to spend millions or billions of dollars and going heavily into debt when you only have to spend millions of dollar or couple of hundred-thousand dollars on buses.

    A majority of Americans agree that high-speed rail is something they want, AS LONG AS SOMEBODY ELSE PAYS FOR IT. Basically your subsidizing a rail system for the wealthy to ride, cause their the ones who benefit most as they tend to live or work in downtown areas where High-speed rail connects to. While high tech rail may seem revolutionary….so was the Concorde Jet. Although actual planes were built and regular services maintained for years which operated at a slight profit, the income from only 20 planes they had, barely made a dent in the actual cost of the project. In this case, by the early 1970s it had already become painfully obvious that the advantages of supersonic flight were failed to compete with the lower fares made possible by slower but much more cost-effective planes. So they turned them into limousines with the best meals and wines and it served only a few very limited corridors.

    http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=3581

    The federal government wants to allocate the money for this rail, and people in Texas, California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, etc will be paying for something they cant possibly use by paying just for the Northeast rail corridor. Unless of course they fly to the Northeast (which flying would take them directly to those major cities anyway) assuming they had a reason to.

    We live in a society where few people are periodic on a daily basis. They don’t actually travel from point A to point B anymore. They go to from point A-1 to B-6 perhaps on Monday and by Wednesday its A-3 to C-5. We have millions of people from thousands of origins traveling to thousands of destinations, and you cant just build rail tracks to all those places. On average 90 percent of trips in America are no more than 40 miles per day. I don’t see HSR taking me to the grocery store or work on a daily basis…….or any real basis.

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