It may be old hat in Europe and Asia to rocket through the landscape on a 200-plus-mile-an-hour train. But in America, all that promoters of high-speed passenger rail service have to show for three decades of effort are dusty feasibility studies stretching from Florida to California.
Yet by committing $13 billion in stimulus and budget funds to high-speed train travel to reduce traffic congestion and cut pollution, the Obama Administration is giving these projects a critical boost. A priority is a line that would whiz passengers 520 miles from Anaheim to San Francisco in less than three hours and upgrades of Amtrak service in New England and the Midwest to reach speeds of up to 150 mph. "This is the first time a U.S. Administration has put this high on the agenda and is putting serious money behind it," says G. Lindsay Simmons, a Washington attorney representing the French National Railway, which aspires to manage U.S. transit systems.