This article in the New York Times notes that the advocates of high speed rail in the United States were hit pretty hard by the November 2nd results. Most notably, the incoming Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have indicated they’ll carry out their campaign promises to kill proposed high speed rail systems in their States. One does not wish to argue with the governors – the State’s have very bad finances right now and so large, expensive projects are not really doable. This is especially true when some of the proposals appear of dubious worth.
Overall, though, I am an advocate of high speed rail. For my State of Nevada, I’d like to see high speed rail lines coming in from San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco – mostly, of course, so we can steal business from that over-taxed, over-regulated and de-facto bankrupt State (sorry, Californians, but we’re going to be rather mercenary and predatory given the way you’ve elected to commit economic suicide by putting Brown back in the governor’s office. Goodness, what were you thinking?). I want Nevada to become a manufacturing and distribution center for the United States – high speed rail from the coast will make that possible…and, eventually, we extend the rail lines in to the east. I also want us to vastly increase our mining, farming and ranching industries – and all of these need the ability to move large, bulky items swiftly from place to place.
It is my view that our transportation system does need a major upgrade – especially in moving large quantities of goods over long distances at low cost. This will take some government action, but the best action government can take is to clear regulatory hurdles to setting up the manufacturing needed to make the trains as well as providing lost-cost right-of-way for the new network (which, though, will mostly follow the current rail lines…though the whole road bed will have to be re-engineered for the much higher quality needed for high speed rail). If there is a genuine economic need in this, private funds will easily pay for the overwhelming bulk of the direct, monetary cost. Anyone who says Uncle Sam or the States have to take a leading financial role merely means they want to build a rail line no one will use.
Of course, all of this is just part and parcel with a new economic paradigm which encourages the making, mining and growing of things. Productivity is the only way we’ll get out of our economic morass. And if we’re really going to do things which will allow us to compete price-wise with the rest of the world (and especially China) then we’re going to need vastly more efficiency throughout our economy. High speed rail fits right in with this – certainly on the major lines where the bulk of our over-land trade goes.
A new American economy requires us to cast aside the stale, dead policies of the past. No more boondoggles for favored groups; no more hand outs to corporations who grease the most DC palms; no more making things which don’t work. It is time to really think about what we want, and then about how to get it. High speed rail has its vital place in our new economy, but we daren’t let grafting politicians get hold of it, or we’ll have a 300 mph training running banksters and bureaucrats from New York to DC while useful goods amble along at 50 mph in the old system.