This afternoon, President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled a map of possible high-speed rail corridors, with clusters on both coasts, in the North and the South. The plan contains few surprises, and is, in fact, merely a “Vision,” as the Recovery Act includes $8 billion in high-speed rail funding, a tiny faction of what this system would cost overall. Of that, governors are already jockeying for large chunks, including California, which is lobbying for half of the pie and a coalition of Midwestern governors is looking for $3.5 billion for a Chicago-based network. LaHood said that money for individual projects will be doled out at the end of the summer.
With airports and highway capacities stretched to the limit, high-speed rail investment seems like a smart augmentation to the national transportation system. Time will tell if we have the will to build such a system. Perhaps the Detroit automakers could be pressed into service building new train cars. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate reversal of fortune?