I'm not averse to high speed rail (HSR), even though it's surely a part of the leftist Utopian fantasy now coming true before our very eyes. There were plenty of times I wished for a TGV type train along some of the highways I've been stuck driving over recurring periods. But I can say the same about flying cars.
Most Republicans have long been opposed to perpetually funding the FUBAR known as Amtrak--mainly because it's a hopeless FUBAR wasting US tax dollars on a failed 20th century idea. Therefore, using some porkulus loot to study a better way seemed fine to me despite Hannity's flare up over Harry Reid's Vegas express.
Now we have a plan. Here's the corridor map:
The gray lines are essentially existing long-haul Amtrak service with the red being existing corridors under discussion, some of which make sense for high speed trains. Others? Well hopefully they are peacemeal because c'mon, who's going to ride between Little Rock and Dallas? Even Matt Yglesias agrees. By the way, notice anything missing? Yep, Reid's Vegas express!
The report also seems to suggest some of these trains will share tracks with freights, which is just an accident waiting to happen. High speed rail needs to be discrete to be successful. To do that the government must deal with Nimbys, and lots of them. But there is another big problem.
Under current proposals HSR will have no competitive pressure to excel. Secretary LaHood went out of his way to point out the funding behind aviation and highways (which favor trucks) but forgot to mention the competition it preserves. When a customer wants to travel from Chicago to Florida they have a choice of several airlines, or the car. No such thing will occur with Government HSR. Think of Amtrak now, add billions, increase the speed a bit, and that could easily be the result.
So I think they need to be very careful here. HSR is worth studying but how about starting with a national proof of concept demonstration on one high-density corridor to see if it's worth pumping billions more om down the line? Instead they seem determined to haphazardly start spraying out money on some kind of a patchwork quilt to nowhere, which could easily wind up being the biggest waste of tax dollars to ever come down the pike.