High‐​Speed Rail Is Not “Interstate 2.0”

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The administration has likened PresidentObama's high-speed rail plan to PresidentEisenhower's Interstate Highway System. Yetthere are crucial differences between interstatehighways and high-speed rail.

First, before Congress approved the InterstateHighway System, it had a good idea how much itwould cost. In contrast, Congress approved $8billion for high-speed rail without knowing thetotal cost, which is likely to be at least $90 billion.

Second, highway users paid for interstatehighways, whereas high-speed rail will be almostentirely subsidized by general taxpayers who willrarely use it.

Third, interstate highways connect all 48 contiguousstates and major metropolitan areas. TheFRA's high-speed rail plan consists of six unconnectednetworks that reach only 33 states and lessthan two-thirds of the nation's 100 largest urbanareas.

Fourth, the average American traveled 4,000miles on interstates in 2007. High-speed rail proponentsoptimistically estimate that the averageAmerican would ride the FRA's high-speed railsystem less than 60 miles per year.

Finally, interstate highways improved socialwelfare by increasing highway safety. In contrast,far from saving energy and reducing pollution,high-speed rail would actually increase energyconsumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

For all these reasons, the United States governmentshould not fund high-speed rail. The $8billion in high-speed rail stimulus funds shouldbe invested in safety improvements, not in newtrains and new routes that will add to future taxpayerobligations.