Medium-Speed Rail in Virginia

by Reihan Salam

Rather than blow the money on a high-speed rail boondoggle, Alex Goldmark flags that the U.S. DOT is spending $74 million to improve a stretch of track between Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, North Carolina:

The Obama administration has allocated around $10 billion to high-speed rail that was meant to lay whole new track and connect regional lines into a national rail network. Republican governors in Wisconsin and Florida returned federal money, saying the plans were too expensive and the states would be on the hook for cost overruns. That leaves California as the the biggest beneficiary of federal money, for an ambitious nearly 400-mile plan to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco by high-speed rail. DOT funds have been distributed around 153 projects, most of which are more like today’s Virginia announcement than California’s plan: projects meant to incrementally push the nation’s rail network toward true high-speed rail through construction that will help an eventual HSR network, but also offer near-term intermediate benefits like faster travel time on congested stretches. [Emphasis added]

The governors of Wisconsin and Florida deserve our thanks, particularly since there is good reason to believe that expensive legacy high-speed rail technologies will be superseded by superior, lower-cost technologies in the near future.