The Obama administration has envisioned a high-speed rail system to rival those overseas. But despite $8 billion in federal support, U.S. rail remains the world’s caboose. Most of the money has gone to projects in Florida, California, and the Midwest, all of which have suffered setbacks.
The Florida line, which would link Tampa to Orlando, has been diced up by designs for five station stops; a bullet train would beat a car by only 30 minutes. Californians have sued the state to keep special elevated tracks from becoming a “Berlin Wall” through their neighborhoods, while gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman wants to shelve the idea until better economic times. And Ohio’s leg of the Chicago hub—where trains would reach a sedate top speed of 79mph and between-city averages as low as 39mph—has become a political whipping post. Gubernatorial frontrunner John Kasich has pledged to divert train funds to roads—a move that drew a rebuke from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who remains optimistic. “We’re in the be-ginning stages,” he tells NEWSWEEK.