The French Have Big Plans for U.S. High-Speed Rail

map of high-speed rail proposal from SNCF

Credit: Yonah Freemark and The Transport Politic.

Major cities in the United States may be saying "bonjour" to high speed rail. A French national railroad operator known as SNCF has submitted detailed descriptions to the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration for creating 220 mph trains in four corridors: California, Florida, Texas and a Chicago/Midwest hub.
SNCF isn't the only entity to express interest in high-speed rail in the United States. But next to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the French group is the only one that submitted a serious, corridor-based proposal, according to The Transport Politic blog.

"SNCF's large response -- totaling 1,000 pages -- exemplifies the degree to which it sees American corridors as a good investment and suggests that the French company is planning an all-out assault on future U.S. rail operations," the blog notes.

The French trains would provide service along 600-mile corridors in four hours or less. That would be plenty of time to keep up on the news (like TreeHugger, perhaps), avoid traffic jams, and get out of the gas tank rat race. Existing passenger trains in U.S. cities consume a third of the energy per passenger mile than cars, according to government data.

The Obama administration has proposed a green track for high speed rail in the United States, with $8 billion in funding from the stimulus legislation to start rebuilding America's old rail system.

SNCF predicts full operation of its U.S. trains by 2023, with the first phase of investment in a line from Milwaukee to Detroit by 2018, and a link to Cleveland opening a couple of years later.

The Midwest corridor plan would cost about $69 billion, with about half subsidized by the public. But the environmental and other benefits would be triple the government investment in less than 15 years of operation, the company argues.

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Is High-Speed Rail the Answer?

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