High-Speed Rail

Does the high cost outweigh the anticipated benefits?


After half a century of decline, America's passenger railroads seem poised for a dramatic comeback. Many experts think high-speed rail (HSR) holds the key to the transportation future, both in this country and abroad. HSR embraces two quite different technologies: an upgraded version of existing steel-wheel-on-steel-rail trains, and magnetic levitation. Maglev trains travel along a guideway at speeds exceeding 300 mph, suspended by magnetic force. HSR is considered ideal for trips of 150 to 500 miles. Cars likely will remain popular for shorter trips, planes for long hauls. The main impediment to high- speed rail development is its high cost, often billions of dollars per system. Critics say HSR can never pay for itself; supporters insist that it can.

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