TRANSPORTATION EDITORIAL: High-speed rail — taken for granted?

July 23, 2015

Source: Editorial | Richmond Times Dispatch

Jaw, jaw is better than war, war, said Winston Churchill. But is it better than build, build? Federal officials certainly seem to think so.

The other day, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx came to Richmond to announce a $1 million planning grant for a high-speed rail line from here to D.C. — a project whose worth is nearly universally recognized.

That recognition has not led to a whole lot of action, though. People have been talking about a high-speed rail link from Richmond to Washington for a decade now. (That’s almost as long as people have been talking about a new minor league baseball stadium.) It could be another decade before the first high-speed train actually makes the run.

Or longer.

After all, four years ago this newspaper reported that “Virginia will receive $44.3 million in federal grant money for planning an eventual high-speed passenger rail link between Richmond and Washington.”

That was a year after reporting, “Virginia has been awarded $45.4 million in U.S. transportation grants for preliminary engineering and an environmental impact assessment for high-speed passenger rail service between the Richmond area and Washington.” Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb issued a news release boasting that the funds would bring “significant economic benefits.”

They say every little bit helps. But given what little nearly $100 million in planning grants has achieved so far, don’t expect another $1 million to produce any miracles. At what point will the commonwealth stop planning and start acting?