High-speed rail lines make progress despite missteps   

    A new era of passenger rail in the United States may finally be on the way even if it seems like local efforts in Baton Rouge have been stalled for years, according to high-speed rail advocates. Despite recent confusion and negative publicity over California’s long-troubled high-speed rail venture, that project and others like it are quickly moving from drawing-board concepts to physical reality, Governing reports.

    By the end of this year, the country may have as many as three new passenger railroad systems under construction, each promising fast service between cities in just a few years. The projects in California, Florida and Texas differ quite a bit from one another in size, scope and funding sources. But each one of those projects seems to be moving forward despite significant obstacles, something many rail proponents see as a promising sign.

    Rick Harnish, the executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, says the progress on the newest rail projects stands in sharp contrast to the slow processes used by Amtrak and individual states in improving rail service.

    “The states have always looked at very small steps. They’ll add one train and see how it does, and then add another and see how it does,” he says. “The problem is that there’s a tipping point, because the train has to be frequent enough that you can ride it. You’ve got to be able to take the capital costs [for new construction and trains] and spread them out over a larger number of trains. That has been the biggest error, particularly in the Midwest, is these tiny little steps.”

    In Florida, where the newly christened Virgin Trains have been running between Miami and West Palm Beach for a year, the private owners were able to prove their concept with frequent service on a short route, Harnish notes. Read the full story.

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