High-Speed Rail: The Trains That Will Change the USA

Billions of dollars in impact and pollution reduction: Here are the benefits of high-speed trains

Travel comfortably, safely, and stress-free. In the United States, the dominance of cars and planes for domestic travel seems to leave more room for the question, “Why doesn’t America have high-speed rail, which has existed for decades in all other industrialized countries?” In response to this persistent question, the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), located in San Jose, California’s Silicon Valley, has provided an answer by publishing a report on the economic and environmental benefits of adopting high-speed rail, especially in densely populated areas.

In general, the impacts of High-Speed Rail (HSR) can include job growth and the creation of an entirely new national production base; the development of areas near train stations and improved regional connectivity; the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and better land use. Furthermore, transitioning to high-speed rail from other modes of transportation, as per the Mineta study, could help the public sector save money by reducing the need for highway and airport improvements.

A network in need of modernization

In the United States, Amtrak‘s Acela is currently the only system capable of operating at speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour (240 km/h), but only for about 50 miles of track along the entire 457-mile route from Boston to Washington. Other planned HSR systems include the Brightline West line from Las Vegas to Southern California, following the success of the Brightline train between Miami and Orlando, now affectionately referred to as the “Messi train,” thanks to the popularity of the Argentine champion and the fans who wear the number 10 pink jersey at the Fort Lauderdale stadium.

In Texas, the construction of a super-fast train to connect Dallas to Houston in just 90 minutes has seen the announcement of a possible partnership between Amtrak and Texas Central, the company responsible for the project, which has entrusted the Webuild Group with the construction of the entire infrastructure. The Dallas-Houston train is designed to travel at 205 mph (330 km/h).

In California, the first section of the High-Speed Rail is under construction, which, in its original plans, suspended due to delays and cost overruns, should connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. Another high-speed rail line is expected to come from the Cascadia Project, which aims to connect Portland, Oregon, with Vancouver in Canada.

The benefits of high-speed rail

Around the world, from Japan to China, Spain to Italy, France to Morocco, over three billion passengers use high-speed trains. However, in the United States, trains still travel at lower speeds due to tracks built without the necessary operability required for high speeds or because freight trains also operate on the same lines.

The Mineta report cites recent studies conducted in the United States, including one by the National League of Cities, which estimates economic benefits of $7.6 billion and $2.9 billion from HSR for the Los Angeles and Orlando areas, thanks to the creation of new economic activities, tax revenues, and jobs (55,000 and 27,000, respectively). Furthermore, high-speed rail can support the growth of technology hubs.

Finally, another study cited by the Californian institute estimates that the widespread adoption of high-speed rail in the United States could save up to 800 million tons of CO2 emissions over a 40-year period.