By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
The Obama Administration recently laid out their plan for investment in a national network of High Speed Rail lines across the United States. This investment includes $8B to be generated from the $787B stimulus plan along with a proposed $5B coming from his proposed 2010 fiscal budget. On the grand scheme of things this is a drop in the bucket, and seemingly light years away from China’s initiative, but I guess you need to start somewhere, right?
According to a recent article in the China Daily, China is “poised to become the world’s High Speed Rail leader.” They are set to build 42 new high speed lines spanning a total of 13,000 km over the next three years. And while our current administration is contemplating how to spend $13B in high speed rail, China is investing $300B in their high speed rail initiative by the year 2020. If a country as smart and as talented as China is blazing this trail, shouldn’t we be more aggressively following their lead?
The way I see it, the positive impacts of building out High Speed Rail lines are good & plenty, here are just a few:
- A reduction in highway traffic
- A decreased dependency on oil
- Minimized pollution
- Increased employment options for commuters who would not normally drive to certain locations
- Newly created jobs for planning, design and construction professionals, among MANY others
- A reduction of air traffic
- Increased property value for those outlying areas that would otherwise have limited options in getting to “the city.”
And these are just a few. I recently listened to a debate on the High Speed Rail topic between Richard Harnish, Executive Director-Midwest High Speed Rail Association and Randall O’Toole, Sr. Fellow with the CATO Institute. Grab a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun…or two…and take a listen:
The information available on this topic is endless. I believe High Speed Rail to be a great and necessary alternative, but like everything else, it boils down to money and acceptance. The proposed $13B investment is a nice start, but where will we get the funds to finish? And once these High Speed Rail lines are up and running, will there be enough funds from rider revenue, taxes, and government subsidies to keep up with the cost of operations and maintenance?
I believe that one day High Speed Rail will be a mainstay in our country, it’s just a matter of when. What do you think?