This past week, President Obama announced $1.25 billion that will be invested in the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail corridor at a town hall in Tampa, a significant step toward fulfilling his vision of making high-speed rail a legacy of the administration.High-speed rail has been promised for a long time, and the I-4 Corridor is a great place to start. However, I wonder whether or not the $8,000,000,000 dollars that is being spent will end up making a system any more functional than the monorail at DisneyWorld. That $8B is going to be spent very quickly and I for one do not believe that there will be long-term support for spending large amounts on high-speed rail.
In addition to $8 billion in high-speed rail funding included in last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Obama has pledged an additional $5 billion through the annual budget process.
To me the biggest debate has to be over who will own the system. Do we want a nationalized high-speed rail network ala Amtrak, or do want to have it in the hands of either the states or private investors? Each option has it's drawbacks and benefits.
As a railfan, I do believe that America needs a high-speed rail option. I am also glad that we are starting to invest seriously in high-speed rail projects, but I also think we need to be realistic and come up with a long-term source of funding for the high-speed system. Is this a gas tax? A airline tax? Or something else? I don't know.