DOT Expands Funding For Studies on U.S. Maglev Corridors; How much longer can they keep doing these planning studies?

September 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm

(Source: Yonah Freemark @ The Transport Politic)

Projects in Georgia, Pennsylvania get millions; Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Baltimore still waiting to hear.

U.S. Proposed Maglev Corridors

Image Courtesy: Yonah Freemark @ The Transport Politic

One clear demonstration of the United States’ lack of coherent national transportation policy objectives is its approach to funding magnetic levitation train projects. Rather than making a decision about what to fund, the Congress occasionally appropriates a relatively small pot of money, then the DOT distributes cash for planning studies. Nothing ever gets off the ground.  That, at least, is how it has worked since 1999, when the DOT first awarded $12 million in planning funds to seven proposed projects in CaliforniaNevadaLouisiana, Florida, GeorgiaMaryland, and Pennsylvania. By 2001, the agency announced it would pick either a line between Baltimore and Washington or one connecting Pittsburgh and its suburbs for almost $1 billion in construction dollars, eventually deciding on the latter. By 2005, however, all funds had been cut off by an uncommitted congress, despite the fact that $62 million had already been distributed; meanwhile, states and municipalities had contributed virtually nothing to the projects. Maglev seemed dead.

The news this month that Atlanta and Pittsburgh have received more planning funds — $14 million for the former and $28 million for the latter — and that other projects funded back in 1999 may once again get appropriations in the coming days seems like a continuation of this destructive cycle. If so, these dollars are nothing more than a waste of money, because there is little chance that funds for actual construction will ever appear. Yet the Congress devoted $90 million maglev two years ago, knowing that actually getting big-budget funds for the projects’ completion from Washington would be almost impossible. Nor has there ever been a concerted effort by either Congress or the Department of Transportation to show why maglev projects should be funded at all.

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Transportgooru Musings: Can someone step up and be bold enough and make a decision for the country?  How much longer can we keep spending our $$$ on these planning studies for Maglev?  We know the technology works (though it is expensive).. We know there is a need for it…Why can’t we just get a demonstration project on the ground?  If there is no interest, why can’t the Congress come out strongly and pull the plug on Maglev for good?  One would expect the Congress to show some leadership and demonstrate our technological competitiveness by fast-tracking this initiative and see it through to completion by a certain timeline.  But it has not happened thus far.  We keep doing these planning studies, one after the other with no sign of serious proposals for starting the construction of these proposed lines.  Why do we keep spending more money on producing yet another planning study report that will be barely grazed by a few?  What good is it to keep producing such reports and letting them sit on a shelf gathering dust?  BTW, you have to really scour the FRA website to get all the documents ever produced on Maglev up until this point in time.  For all that money, time and effort spent on producing these reports, at least there should be a place to archive them properly and make it easily accessible on the FRA  website.   Now your only available option is to use the “Search” function and weed through the 177 odd documents that are thrown at you when you look for “Maglev” (many of which are  press releases, and other mundane stuff). Come on, y’all! Show some balls and get ‘eeeeer done!