Taking a more moderate view are the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Automobile Assn. Both believe there is some need for high-speed technology, but question how it will be funded. The auto group opposed a recent attempt to raise more money for Amtrak by raising the gas tax a penny. Both organizations also oppose financing rail through the Highway Trust Fund. "If there is a market for high-speed rail," says AAA spokesman Richard F. Hebert, "then the users of that service should pay for it."
In this highly competitive arena, high-speed rail advocates are looking to Congress and local governments for some form of help. Here, too, the messages are mixed. A 1992 attempt to put tax-exempt high-speed bonds under the same status as large infrastructure projects like airports and highways was passed by the Senate but failed in the House. Rail proponents say that unless this financial cap is lifted, they cannot raise the billions of dollars needed for their projects.
On the state level, any number of routes could be upgraded for X2000-type trains within two to five years. But while states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have done studies that point to a large ridership for high-speed service, they lack the funding to institute it. Two hours and forty minutes after it left New York, the X2000 pulls into Washington's Union Station. These pioneers are chipper. They have experienced the future, and can report back that it works.