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The Quiet Case For A Rail System of Some Speed



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Over at The Washington Monthly, Philip Longman writes a paean to the virtues of high-speed rail, and laments that Republicans “have torpedoed plans for American bullet trains.” Luckily for America, though, Obama doesn’t just have a plan, but he is “quietly building a slower, but potentially much better, rail system.” Be still our beating hearts. The article is full of the usual Euro longing, and tired laments that the United States just doesn’t have the imagination to add another vast national project (not to mention another $53 billion of debt) to the creaking portfolio, albeit one which seems to have been hastily redefined.

The manifold problems with the rail boondoggle, which opposition Longman dismisses as “strong, almost theological,” have been laid out at length already on National Review Online. But one such charge has not been addressed: The problem with We the people. As usual, for the likes of Longman, the root of the problem is the citizenry. He regrets that:

building a truly high-speed rail system in today’s America would be so expensive, disruptive, contentious, and politically risky that it just might not be possible. It would require, for example, securing brand-new rights-of-way, because trains traveling at more than around 125 mph can’t share tracks with slower freight or passenger trains. This in turn would require using eminent domain to secure millions of acres of real estate, and these days, in the U.S., that would involve endless litigation, environmental review, and the innumerable other processes that always stand to derail any large-scale infrastructure project.

Ah, yes. Those small-minded, progress-hating rubes (in other scenarios, these people double as the wonderful ‘little guy’) who don’t thrill to the prospect of the eminent domain clause being employed to take their land to sustain a project on which less than the half the country looks favorably



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