An interesting development in the high-speed rail debate surfaced when Matthew Rose, the CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, testified to Congress that while 90 mph passenger trains are compatible with pre-existing freight trains, the current proposal calls for top speeds of 110 mph. Rose argued that if the trains Obama proposed are to run, new tracks will need to be built to ensure the high speed of 110 mph.
BSNF is the largest railroad in the United States with routes in the north from Seattle to Chicago and traveling from L.A. to Chicago in the south.
The Southeast Corridor, where North Carolina has made a bid, plans to use existing tracks owned by CSX, connecting Raleigh and Richmond. However, if Rose is right, these existing tracks will only be able to handle speeds up to 90 mph and average 60 mph – which is not exactly “high-speed.” If CSX developers agree, then Obama’s high-speed rail proposal will experience a major setback. Current Amtrak routes in North Carolina have a top speed of 79 mph and an average of 48 mph. At the end of the day, a government subsidy that is “needed” will not change very much, expect increase spending.
Rose’s testimony poses the question Obama will need to answer; whether WE should spend a trillion on a legitimate high-speed rail and have to build new lines, or spend tens of billions on a moderate-speed rail and only get 60-90 mph trains. Seems the $8 billion stimulus package proposed isn’t enough either way.
What’s more, studies consistently show that trains do not bring out large ridership numbers and certainly not enough to warrant such large spending that will have little effect on speed.
However, will this stop big government from ignoring market signals and spending an outrageous amount of money that will produce little to no profit? History tells us no. But we will have to wait and see.