What is 'high speed' rail?

FILE: An Amtrak train passes Illinois cornfields as it speeds through a crossing en route to Chicago on Monday, July 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

What is 'high speed' rail?
April 20, 2010 1:21:23 PM PDT
An influential congressman is calling plans for high speed rail in Chicago little more than an illusion.

On Tuesday members of the U.S. House subcommittee on railroads met in downtown Chicago to map out plans for $8 billion in federal funds destined to make Chicago a high speed rail hub.

But the reality revealed Tuesday is that service to Milwaukee will only go 87 miles per hour. That's only slightly faster than current speeds. And, trains travelling to St. Louis and other Midwest cities are expected to go 110 miles per hour through rural areas. That's far slower than high speed trains in Europe.

"When we talk about high speed rail we're looking at about 130-150 mph speed on average. We don't have that with any of our programs that have come forward with $8 billion being spent," said Rep. John Mica (R-Florida).

"Once you're superior to auto and competitive or superior to air you're going to capture the market and there's not that much left to capture. So there's a point of diminishing returns," said Joseph Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration.

Experts say truly high speed trains would require dedicated track, fewer grade crossings and hundreds of billions of dollars to build.


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