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Naive optimism about high-speed rail system

July 17, 2006

Re "Rail of two cities," Opinion, July 7

We can always count on former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Michael H. Dukakis to provide a textbook example of how large infrastructure projects are sold using myths rather than reality.

In his Op-Ed article coauthored with Arthur H. Purcell, he touts the purported potential of a high-speed rail system to reduce traffic congestion both on California's highways and in the air. Unfortunately, the system's planning documents make no such promises. Even with high-speed rail, traffic congestion between California's largest urban areas will rise by more than 25% by 2020.

As for air congestion, less than 10% of air travel between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area is between Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports, as airlines have taken steps to relieve congestion by moving to other airports for most of these short flights. The high-speed rail planners predict that one-half of air passengers will switch to rail. This is completely implausible but consistent with the naively optimistic projections of other large infrastructure projects that California has undertaken.


Senior Fellow

Heartland Institute

O'Fallon, Ill.


The writer is a former member of the Amtrak Reform Council.

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