We need to budget $17 billion or so – that’s three years worth of shovel-ready freight rail right of way projects --- to put back the railroad track ripped up from existing rights of way over the past few decades due to a very poor strategic decision made by the freights --- under their old management, now departed--- to do that. That right of way is wide enough and straight enough, in most cases, to permit 125+ mph passenger trains on dedicated tracks, and 79-125 mph on some if not all shared tracks.I've been making this case for some time, particularly with the freight railroads taking advantage of the lull in traffic to make improvements to their rights-of-way.
The column notes that much of the United States is thickly settled enough to make corridor investments worth doing.
The work itself won't involve that many people. On the other hand, if the investments have a positive return on investment, count me as on board. (Government budgets don't make the elementary accounting distinction between an expenditure, such as 4,000 man-hours to bring the Sun Prairie Subdivision up to Hiawatha standards, and an investment, such as a million tons of rail and 200,000 concrete ties.)
Critics of rail like to say that America is not as densely populated as Europe, and therefore rail works there, but won’t work here. Bull feathers! Their disingenuous and dishonest use of statistical averages deliberately ignores the fact that the population centers of America: the Northeast, the Mid Atlantic, the Gulf South, the Chicago/Midwest nine-state population center, California’s coast, and the Northwest’s Cascadia Corridor, are ALL just as densely populated as European centers, and even some states that used to be thought of as “open spaces” are catching up. Not long ago one of the oil-lobby shills, who flaunts a list of “institute” credentials as legitimization for his words, noted in a Florida Op Ed piece that, after all, “high density” European countries such as France could be justified in having high speed rail, but “low density” places like the state of Florida could not.
For an answering Op Ed we wrote that appeared later in response, we did a little actual research, and here’s the news: Florida, allegedly too unpopulated to support rail, actually surpassed France in population density nearly a decade ago. By the shill’s own logic therefore high speed rail is justified in Florida. (The population density of France is 289 people per square mile; that of Florida is 333).
It is time to put the ideological bullies in their place, and build America. Put some REAL rail money in the Stimulus Bill --- out of $800 billion+, some $17, $20 or even $100 billion for rail infrastructure doesn’t seem like much --- and put this country back to work.
Rivet-counting department: some parts of France are more thickly settled than Florida, but the most thickly-settled parts of Florida offer nice flat stretches of raceway for Champions and Orange Blossom Specials.