Via Meadia has covered the high speed rail fail in China; now this ‘technology of the future’ seems to be suffering a meltdown here in the US.
Since the Obama presidency began, various proposals for high-speed rail have been popping up across the country—Florida, Wisconsin, and California have each considered plans to build the “transportation of the future.” But there is one thing excitable planners forgot to ask: does anybody want it? Florida and Wisconsin have already turned down federal funding for high-speed rail, citing high costs and low popularity. Now it appears that deep-blue California might do the same. From the Wall Street Journal:
The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group—which the state legislature appointed to analyze funding for the rail system—questioned the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan to start construction without any assurance of future funding from the federal government, among other factors.
Moving ahead “represents an immense financial risk” for California, the group said in its report, echoing concerns from critics who say the project could leave state taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in future costs. [. . .]
The Field Poll, a research group primarily active in California, found in a December survey that 59% of Californians would reject the bond package if the vote were held again.
Republicans have what looks at this early stage like a lock on the House in 2012 and seem likely to win the Senate. That means federal funding for more high speed rail is as dead as the dodo for some time to come; without vast federal help no state can rationally make a commitment to visionary and expensive rail projects.
It looks like the transportation of the future—like the energy of the future—will remain a dream in the minds of blue politicians and trendy urban planners for years to come.