How well will high speed rails work?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (2nd L) speaks to reporters with Satoshi Seino (2nd R), president of East Japan Railway Co., one of the country's major train operators, while standing near a bullet train at the Shinkansen Vehicle Center of East Japan Railway Co. May 12, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan.

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JEREMY HOBSON: Federal officials are expected to announce $2.5 billion in high speed rail grants today. California's set to get the most money,
with Florida close behind.

But as Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, not everybody in the railway biz is celebrating.


Sarah Gardner: President Obama has touted high speed rail as a greener, faster alternative to cars. California's got the most ambitious plan: an 800-mile rail network running from San Diego to Sacramento, with trains traveling 220 miles per hour.

John Robert Smith co-chairs the advocacy group Transportation for America.

John Robert Smith: We believe for the future, the people of the United States need choices for transportation and high speed rail is certainly one of those choices and an important choice for the future.

But many of these new trains will run at only 110 miles per hour and on the same tracks as freight rail, and freight rail companies aren't thrilled about sharing. Mark Reutter at the Progressive Policy Institute says they have a legitimate gripe.

Mark Reutter: There's a congestion problem, there's huge liability problems. Essentially staying on existing freight lines is what the current system is today, which is Amtrak.

But building new designated tracks for all high speed rail would cost billions more in public funding.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Andrea Gardner is a journalism professor and writer in Pasadena, Calif.

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