Fate of High Speed Rail Uncertain after Election


Image: The Transport Politic. See link for full-size image.

As we've been discussing over the last few days, the fallout of the 2010 midterm elections is likely to bring a slew of mostly-negative consequences for climate, clean energy, and green. I overlooked one such consequence when I wrote at length about the various likely impacts of a Congress that's hostile to green ideas yesterday: And that's the fact that the future of high speed rail has hit a major speed bump thanks to the election of a number of politicians who oppose bringing efficient transit to their states. The map above, created by the folks at the Transport Politic shows a schematic for the planned high speed rail lines that had received full or partial funding from either the stimulus bill or federal budget allotments. Many GOP candidates for office were outspoken against accepting such funds for their state, saying that high speed rail was too expensive, and a bad investment. Some threatened to reject the already-approved federal funding outright, and kill plans for high speed rail on the spot.

The Xs above, in Ohio, shows where an already approved and scheduled intercity high speed rail line was slated to be built -- creating thousands of jobs in the process. The Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, lost his reelection bid to John Kasich, a firm opponent of rail transit. He vowed to return the $400 million the federal government allotted to the state if elected to office. Well, he was -- and it looks like that's exactly what he'll do.

Other cases aren't so cut and dry, but a slew of politicians in Wisconsin, Michigan, and elsewhere have decried rail spending, and made similar threats to rescind their states' and cities' support for projects. Those are marked by the question marks above.

It's not all bad news, however -- rail will go ahead in California, where the governor-elect Jerry Brown, is a vocal proponent of the high speed line connecting San Francisco to San Diego. Also, the Republican governor-elect of Florida Rick Scott seems to have changed his mind about returning the $800 million his state received from the US gov for its high speed rail, and the project is set to go ahead.

If those politicians in the Midwest do decide to cancel their rail projects (which, if they do, it will be solely for political show), the funding would likely be redistributed to other states looking to build rail, or to Florida or California. But the missing chunks in the middle of the country would set back the already lagging rail plans considerably, making it the goal of establishing any sort of reliable nationwide rail infrastructure an even further away daydream.

More on High Speed Rail
GOP Candidates Pledge to Kill High Speed Rail
High Speed Rail Finally Coming to the US: A Look at the Plans
Is High Speed Rail Coming to a City Near You?

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