I suppose I shouldn't just let this little listserve die when there is a need for an outlet to discuss the real issues.
Michael Dresser's piece on the latest in high speed rail in today's Sun is worth such an airing:
It confirms that the Obama administration is more interested in using high speed rail money to reward its friends than to develop any kind of rational system. USDOT Secretary LaHood actually acknowledges that this approach is "patchwork". How can anything decent get built if they don't even try to? And this "patchwork" is going to cost $53 billion over the next six years with the ultimate outcome solely dependent on politics more than rationality. It's symptomatic of the way the whole federal stimulus plan seems to have degenerated into chaos.
Dresser contrasts Wisconsin, which has rejected the federal money based on their priorities, with Maryland, which will take any money the feds give them without making any kind of real commitment in return. Maryland shelved its own MagLev project, and has put off building everything else indefinitely (hi-speed rail, major freight upgrades, Red Line, Purple Line, Green Line, Corridor Cities Line), but will keep spending crumbs on more and more studies just to keep its lips in the federal funding trough. This is the essence of the "patchwork" approach LaHood has touted.
Let's not confuse this with rebuilding the West Baltimore Amtrak tunnel, as Dresser has. This is just a system preservation project which will increase speeds up to maybe 50 mph. It has very little to do with high speed rail.
What is totally clear is that with this patchwork approach, neither the federal or state governments, Democrat or Republican, are in any kind of position to push for a true high speed rail system. New Jersey is coming out of this looking very rational. They've just pawned their patchwork and unmanageable $8.7 billion Hudson tunnel plan off on Amtrak (which Dresser doesn't mention today) and Amtrak has quickly escalated it into a $13.5 billion plan.
At least Amtrak has some ability to look beyond state borders, unlike any other actor in all this, although Amtrak has its own obvious baggage. I have no idea whether their $13.5 billion plan is any good, as it hasn't been vetted much in the larger media. It got a tiny mention yesterday in the Sun. For $13.5B, it ought to be !!!!! Has our MDOT been involved? Anything Amtrak does certainly affects Maryland.
This whole high speed rail mess cries out for a regional multi-state perspective, especially in the Northeast Corridor, but also in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Michigan (which was still pretending to be building a Kalamazoo high speed rail line the last time I heard).
Here's my plan from last October: