I keep hearing that some sort of Federal economic stimulus package will involve high speed rail transit, all sorts of fantasies of auto companies that can't make or sell cars will now be making super fast high tech choo choo trains, etc. This is a pure fairy tale and I don't buy it. We cannot even run a low speed reliable intercity passenger rail service much less a high speed passenger rail link.
As I read about the Canadian Pacific East-West line through Reno having a derailment in an old tunnel which then caused a 102 year old bridge to collapse on the Amtrak Zephyr line on December 27, 2008 I am wondering if the USA can even continue any low speed rail transit, much less a high tech high speed rail link to anywhere. It is obvious the passenger rail transit system is clapped out junk stacked like a house of cards on a shaky table. Passenger rail service does not have its own transit corridors outside of a couple routes on the eastern seaboard, it just thumps and bangs along old abused freight routes that all too frequently toss several freight cars, engines, crews or Amtrak passengers off a cliff or off a bridge. Passenger service routinely gets sidetracked for freight service and is generally run on old stock and old road beds at extremely old low speeds. Regional passenger rail service is much the same, old stock on old shared rail beds. Last year in Philadelphia I enjoyed using the trains and subway but the maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure was disturbing, mounds and mounds of trash (old tires, scrap, garbage) on the regional rail beds rusty old bridges and a roller coaster effect on the subway rails with ancient rolling stock did not give me confidence that the systems would last another 10 years.
Just acquiring the rail corridors to run reasonable speed service will be very difficult and building the road bed and buying some new regular speed trains and equipment will be a large investment. And it will be no different with an "economic stimulus" package, most of the money will go to freeways and highways, little or none to rail. High speed rail service is very expensive, it needs special equipment, special corridors, specialized technology that takes decades to develop and at this time and place it is a complete waste of time and resources for a risky gamble that may not even work and have little payoff if it does.
It is time to expand and improve the regular speed passenger rail services in the USA, not feed everyone a techno-fantasy that cannot deliver given the state of public transit in this country. The task of delivering a regular speed passenger rail system is going to be difficult enough now, tossing the money and resources away on a couple of high speed trains is not going to serve the public, resources are limited and the battle with car-centric interests will leave little money for public transit funding. Only by creating and developing regular speed passenger rail will the transit industry build the base and expertise it needs to create high speed passenger rail. And that will not happen for many years.
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