Why We’ll Probably Never Have High-Speed Rail in New England

Megan McArdle of the Asymmetrical Information blog identifies the major limitation of what’s supposed to be Rhode Island’s high-speed rail link to the rest of the Eastern seaboard…

Why is America’s high-speed rail so dreadful? The Acela delivers you, at enormous added expense, to Boston one hour ahead of the regional. On the DC-to-NY run, the added benefit is 10-15 minutes. The answer is that the Acela uses existing track, which is twisty, the better to serve every congressional district between here and Boston. Real high speed rail needs to be fairly straight, for the same reason you don’t take hairpin turns at 120 mph in your car.
Alas, any transportation project that would require moving train tracks is a non-starter is this part of the country, doomed by the difficulty of finding an acceptable straight-line route through the densely populated region. I like the way this commenter at Ms. McArdle’s site put it…
Since the railpath must be wide and straight, the only way to build it would be a totalitarian use of eminent domain that would be tolerated only by third-world dictators and first-world liberal elites. This would involve literally steamrolling over everyone in the way for hundreds of miles, destroying families, communities, and businesses in the fashion of William T. Sherman.
And even if a reasonable straight-line path were available, the nimby obstructionism prevalent in northeastern politics would almost certainly prevent anything new from being built.

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16 years ago

How about straight down the middle of the Mass Pike, bang a left at Albany along the Hudson Seaway?

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
16 years ago

What’s the problem?
If the government can take private properties through eminent domain in order to make way for shopping centers and the like, certainly it can take whatever it needs to build a high speed rail line for a semi-governmental entity like Amtrak.
Just ask Ms. Kelo!

16 years ago

No, the real reason we won’t have high speed rail; no drive-thru’s.
Seriously, people like the convenience of their cars and SUV’s to do their daily routine. It doesn’t help that rail industry has been beaten back to the iron age in New England also.
The Acela’s numbers aren’t what they hoped for either. We’ve bred a car loving society that ignores public transportation in this region. Not to mention that people have moved into the burbs for a reason and that is to get away from that very infrastructure. Most people that work in the cities live in the sticks. So, you need to get to the train station somehow, might as well drive the rest of the way.
If you build it, they probably won’t come.

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