Bloomberg: High-speed rail adds 'equivalent of 1,900 miles of interstate'

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg pushes Congress to invest in high-speed rail, particularly in the Northeast. Here's his argument.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

The staff of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg published on Thursday the statement he plans to deliver during testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

In it, there are some compelling statistics and anecdotes for the support of high-speed rail. (For which, as you might expect, Bloomberg is in favor.)

Take for example, this one:

As Chairman [John] Mica noted, New York’s clogged airports are responsible for flight delays around the country. If we want to reduce those delays, and keep this engine of growth driving the American economy, we need to unclog the fuel lines.

And the best way is via a high-speed rail line. High-speed rail would add the equivalent of about 1,900 lane miles of interstate – except, of course, this would be an interstate with a speed limit of 220 mph.

In his testimony, Bloomberg argues that HSR -- specifically in the Northeast -- would be an economic boon and "generate travel and tourism, raise property values and cut pollution and dependence on foreign oil" -- not to mention reduce congestion.

In fact, he estimates that HSR would "generate more than $7 billion in economic activity and create about 100,000 new jobs by 2040."

Despite U.S. president Barack Obama's declaration that 80 percent of Americans would be served by high-speed rail within 25 years, Bloomberg said not enough action has been taken, specifically with regard to public-private partnerships.

He said:

That's certainly a laudable goal – but the money isn’t there for it yet. So we ought to start with what makes sense economically right now. And at the moment, we’re not doing that.

Funding for high-speed rail projects has been divided across 36 states, spreading our money so thinly that we run the risk of achieving nothing at all. In fact, the current Federal plan allots just over one percent of all high-speed rail spending for the Northeast. That simply doesn’t make sense.

More of his points:

  • "Today, [the U.S.] invests just over two percent of our GDP in infrastructure. Meanwhile, Europe invests at twice that rate and China at almost three times it."
  • The Northeast region’s population is expected to grow by 40 percent by 2050.
  • "Acela is the only profitable line run by Amtrak and the Northeast is the only corridor where there’s demonstrated high demand for high-speed rail."
  • "High-speed rail could cost over $100 billion and take a generation to build."
  • The U.S. "needs to make smart investments in 21st century transportation," and "high-speed rail in the Northeast corridor is the smartest possible investment for a track to the future."

What do you think? Realistic assessment, or a partisan approach to funding?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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