The contracts have been signed, and the first high-speed railway in the Americas will be built very soon - but not where you're thinking. Argentina's new President Christina Kirchner, wife of former President Nestor Kirchner, signed the papers last month with a consortium led by French company Alstom to connect the country's major cities by high-speed rail.
The $1.35 billion contract calls for a 440 mile (710 km) high-speed rail corridor to connect Buenos Aires with Rosario and Cordoba. A second line will connect Buenos Aires with Mar del Plata in the future. The train will cut down travel time between Buenos Aires and Cordoba from fourteen hours today to a mere three hours a couple years from now.
The is quite a step in Latin America, where rail service has been systematically mismanaged, neglected and dismantled in recent years, and bus service has become the standard for long distance journeys. Not to be outdone by its neighbor, Brazil is planning its own intercity passenger rail service, with a high-speed connection proposed between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The closest thing in North America to high-speed passenger rail is Amtrak's Acela, which runs at speeds of between 75 mph (120 km/h) and 150 mph (241 km/h). High-speed rail is generally defined as passenger rail running at speeds in excess of 125 mph (200 km/h). High-speed rail networks are being planning in Canada and in California. However, some advocates of high-speed rail travel are calling for the US to build a nationwide network as part of its response to dwindling resources and the environmental crisis.