High Speed Ground Transportation:

Funds Need to Be Focused Under Proposed Legislation

T-RCED-93-45: Published: May 20, 1993. Publicly Released: May 20, 1993.

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GAO discussed the federal government's allocation of resources for the development of high-speed ground transportation (HSGT) in the United States. GAO noted that: (1) the administration has proposed legislation and requested $1.3 billion to foster high-speed rail technology development and designate high-speed rail corridors; (2) the cost of implementing high-speed rail programs increases with the proposed level of speed desired; (3) HSGT options include improving existing rail rights-of-way, which would increase rail speed to 150 miles per hour (mph) and cost between $500 million and $2.6 billion, developing a high-speed rail system similar to France's system, which would increase rail speed to 200 mph and cost nearly $4 billion, or developing a Maglev system which would permit speeds of up to 250 mph and cost $12 billion; (4) the Amtrak Northeast Corridor Improvement Program is the only rail improvement program that has been federally funded and implemented; (5) few HSGT projects have been privately developed or funded because of the risks involving ridership levels and rates of return; (6) the administration has proposed legislation that would allow the Department of Transportation to spend $140 million in 1994 and a total of $1.3 billion between 1994 and 1998 for high-speed rail corridor and technology development, but the legislation does not include a development schedule or limit the number of projects; and (7) a strategic approach and accurate ridership data are needed to contain the potentially high costs of HSGT development.

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