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


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.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/25/2009