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January 7th, 2014, 08:38 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
A lot of train-related news this week...
The biggest public works project in the country- high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco - is still on track despite several recent setbacks, California officials say. Other observers are increasingly concerned.
The $68 billion venture is the first of its kind in the United States, and its success or failure could shape American transportation policy for decades to come. As a result, the project is under intense scrutiny from Congress, taxpayers and transportation experts around the world.
It would be a major engineering feat to whisk passengers between the two cities in less than three hours, which is the goal. To succeed, California leaders must find their way through a maze of deadlines, lawsuits and regulations that threaten the project.
A Sacramento trial judge recently raised serious questions about two fundamental aspects of the project: its business plan and a major funding source. The rulings did not stop work, but they bolstered opponents who argue the whole scheme is unworkable. Some outside observers also raised doubts.
"The rulings raise so many questions about whether this project still makes financial sense," Joe Nation, a public policy professor at Stanford University, told the San Jose Mercury News. "This could turn into a real nightmare."
The project is now unpopular with California voters, too, even though they were the ones who got the project off the ground in 2008 when they approved a $10 billion bond measure to help pay for it.
Despite the setbacks, Dan Richard, chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority, said the project will go forward.
The Japanese government has promised to lend the United States half of the cost of building the first "Super-Maglev" train, reducing travel time between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to just 15 minutes.
Tokyo is so keen to show off its technology that it will provide loans for half the estimated $8 billion (£5bn) cost of installing the tracks, Japan's Asahi newspaper said on Tuesday.
Masahiro Nakayama, a general manager at Central Japan Railway Co, told The Daily Telegraph that the American federal government was keen, and that the state authorities were especially enthusiastic about the project.
"The national government has shown interest," he said. "But a number of the states in the north-east corridor – such as Maryland – are particularly keen for faster rail links and more advanced technology."
The 37-mile journey between Washington DC and Baltimore presently takes one hour by conventional rail link, and the Japanese government and Central Japan Railway Co. hope to use the project to showcase what it believes will be the transportation technology of the future.
Eventually, a 453-mile track linking the US capital with Boston will be constructed.
The proposal for the Maglev route was first put forward by Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, during talks with President Barack Obama in February and interest is increasing among states in the north-east of the US, according to Central Japan Railway Co.
"I want to propose that (the United States) introduce the Maglev train system to represent Japan-US cooperation," said Mr Abe at the meeting.
Virginia and North Carolina representatives are scheduled to meet on the development of high-speed rail service from Charlotte, N.C., to Washington, D.C.
Members of the Virginia-North Carolina Interstate High Speed Rail Compact are to meet Tuesday in Richmond. The panel is made up of members from each state's legislature.
The compact was created by both states to develop the high-speed rail corridor. A primary goal is obtaining federal funding.
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