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6/25/2009



Rail News: Passenger Rail

FRA's high-speed rail plan too general, GAO says


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The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) strategic plan for high-speed rail is less of a plan and more of a vision, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The plan — which was mandated to be issued 60 days after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed — outlines, in very general terms, how the federal government may invest $8 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed rail development, GAO said. However, the plan does not establish clear high-speed rail goals for the federal government, other than a longer-term goal of developing a national intercity passenger rail network, and doesn't define a clear federal role for high-speed rail involvement other than providing recovery act dollars, the report states.

For its part, the FRA has acknowledged that the strategic plan is a first step and it intends to seek structured input from stakeholders and the public to develop implementation strategies.

Meanwhile, the GAO report also noted that high-speed rail projects are costly, take years to develop and build, and require substantial up-front public investment, as well as potentially long-term operating subsidies. Determining which, if any, high-speed rail projects may eventually be economically viable will rest on factors such as ridership potential, costs and public benefits, the report said.


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