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Development & Transportation

High-Speed Rail Not Dead in Pennsylvania


Lawmakers in Washington DC have put an end to federal funding for President Obama's national high-speed rail program, but officials in Pennsylvania are not yet ready to declare the efforts in their state dead.

Republican Ninth District Congressman Bill Shuster said that since Philadelphia is part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, a potential region for high-speed rail, the commonwealth won't miss out on any future funding. However, Dick Voith, with PenTrans, a group supporting public transportation in the commonwealth, said that justifying the slash of federal money for high-speed rail by saying it won't hurt Pennsylvania is shortsighted.

"The people who want to kill high-speed rail would be very content to kill high-speed rail in the northeast as well. So the fact that Pennsylvania has dodged the immediate bullet doesn't mean that it will dodge the next bullet," said Voith.

Randal O'Toole, a senior fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute, said that the president's proposal was not a smart development idea in the first place because most people don't live and work in those areas.

"High speed rail will be a subsidy to a few elites who work in downtowns: bankers, lawyers, government lobbyists. It is not a method of transportation that will be used by most Americans," said O'Toole.

From there, O'Toole gets even more skeptical, "Is the vision dead? I think it is dead. I think people sat down and they figured out how much it is going to cost and they figured out it doesn't make sense."

On the other side of the argument, Voith thinks a better rail system may be the only real option as populations grow. "We have serious highway capacity issues that really would be, in the dense urban areas, where it's really expensive to do highways, it probably makes a lot of sense, just from a pure travel time point of view, have better quality train service," Voith said.

President Obama had called for the construction of several rail networks in different pockets across the country, including Pennsylvania, to connect large urban centers.