Benefits, Feasibility of High-Speed Rail Varies
Remember The Eye's recent "Ask Your Government" report on the future of American high-speed rail? Remember how it discussed the potential drawbacks to such ambitious efforts? A new report by the Government Accountability Office confirms those concerns, noting that expected costs and benefits differ greatly between densely populated regions and areas eager for rail development, but not necessarily able to support it.
"Research on rider and cost forecasts has shown they are often optimistic," the report states, adding that it's also difficult to forecast potential commercial interest in rail development.
Highlighting a point raised by high speed rail plan skeptics during The Eye's original reporting on the topic the GAO notes that "sustaining public and political support for project development will also be a challenge."
Uncertainties regarding rider forecasts and cost estimates can undermine confidence in whether projects will actually produce claimed benefits. Project sponsors must also sustain political support over several electoral cycles and coordinate project decisions among numerous stakeholders in different jurisdictions, typically without the benefit of an established institutional framework.
The economic stimulus package does provide $8 billion to fund high speed rail projects across the country, but experts say "That money will not be enough to pay for a single bullet train."
This means potential passengers will have to keep waiting for the new train, no matter its speed.
| March 20, 2009; 4:40 PM ET
Categories: Ask Your Government, Oversight
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