China to Top TGV

The Chinese are growing four-lane highways like weeds, but they also want the world’s fastest high-speed rail system:

“It is possible that we can start to manufacture 380km/h trains in two years time, and put them into service on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway,” Mr Zhang told the state-owned China Daily.

Meanwhile, here in the US it’s a struggle to assemble political support for even one of these. Technological feats are increasingly the domain of other countries.

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Rebuilding Passenger Rail

It’s been out for a while now, but a study group says it’d take about $357B over the next 40-plus years to re-create a passenger rail system that would offer travel times competitive with the auto. That annualizes to about $8.1B a year. The group suggests that the feds pick up 80 percent of the tab. See also America 2050.

High Speed Rail Referendum

Robert Cruickshank runs an advocacy blog in support of the California High Speed Rail initiative that’ll be on the ballot this fall in my home state. In his latest post, countering anti-rail/anti-initiative comments from the Howard Jarvis/Prop 13 group, he makes an excellent point:

What prosperity California still has today is the product of past public spending – the bay bridges, the freeways, the aqueducts, the universities. All of those were paid for by taxes, and Californians reaped the rewards. But those investments need to be renewed, in a way that suits the new conditions of the 21st century, specifically energy, environment, and climate.

What he neglects to mention is that investment in all those things basically dried up by the end of the 1960s. Since then, opposition on one side by anti-tax forces and on the other by environmentalists has all but stopped new infrastructure projects in the state. And California is but a microcosm of the entire country in this regard. We’re living off the achievements of our grandparents.