America: Where “High-Speed Rail” is Not High-Speed Rail

Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood addressed a crowd of Midwest rail fans, saying, “Twenty-five years from now, because of the president’s vision, we will be connected by high-speed rail.” Despite delusional LaHood’s predictions, it is appearing increasingly likely that this will not be the case. And this isn’t just because incoming governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich have promised to kill high-speed rail projects in their states. Nor is it because these projects are budget busters and will largely benefit a tiny, wealthy, vocal minority. No, it is because most of what LaHood and his backing coalition of enviro-extremists and rent-seeking businesses propose is not even high-speed rail.

In the Lexington Herald-Leader, CEI Vice President Iain Murray and I have an article debunking the patently false claims made by LaHood and his equally delusional backers. Here’s an excerpt:

In Western Europe, for instance, high-speed rail lines must reach a minimum of 125 miles per hour on upgraded track and 160 miles per hour for new track. China currently has trains that can reach speeds in excess of 260 miles per hour for limited stretches.

In contrast, only three of the United States’ eight new high-speed rail corridors that received funding will feature trains capable of reaching speeds in excess of 110 miles per hour. Embarrassingly, passenger trains in the 1940s regularly met or exceeded these speeds. Only California’s proposed high-speed rail corridor would resemble anything close to a “modern” European or Asian passenger rail line.

Conservative critics of the administration have accused it of trying to turn America into a Western European-style social democracy. A more apt comparison in this case would be the former Soviet bloc, where the “high-speed” bar was set even lower, at 100 miles per hour.

Yet even that is probably too fast for some of America’s proposed lines. For instance, trains traveling on the Charlotte-Raleigh leg of the planned Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond-Washington “high-speed” corridor would top out at 90 miles per hour. Currently, the federal speed limit for trains traveling on Class 5 track is 80 miles per hour for freight and 90 for passenger rail — hardly the revolution in mobility the administration claims these projects represent.

Whole article here.