Commentary

High-Speed Rail Gets Congressional Scrutiny

For an update on federal action on high-speed rail, C. Kenneth Orski summarizes recent events on Capitol Hill in Innovation Briefs and over at newgeography.com (14 December 2011). Ken provides some useful analysis on where the Obama Administration has “gone wrong” while also acknowledging that he personally believes intercity passenger rail has a place in the nation’s transportation infrastructure and network.

The key problems and strategic policymaking failures [my words, not Orski’s] Ken sees were:

  • Oversellilng the program as “high speed” when it fact most of the rail spending is focused on conventional passenger rail;
  • Failing to provide a clear focus for the program;
  • Shifting federal resources and attention away from the one corridor where HSR might make sense: the Northast Corridor; and
  • Failing to involve the private sector from the outset as an important solution to a fiscally challenged funding environment.

Overall, a good round up of the current state of the federal program.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.