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Why the US doesn’t yet have ‘high-speed’ rail — and why that could soon change

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Projects that would bring “high-speed” trains to connect metropolitan areas across the country are starting to break ground, and Amtrak is beginning to test faster trains in the Northeast. 

The Biden administration also recently announced a $6 billion investment to deliver “world-class high-speed rail,” and to “launch new passenger rail corridors across the country.” These developments have many asking: Are we witnessing the arrival of high-speed rail, heralding a long-awaited shift away from vehicle emissions toward eco-friendly mass transit?

Serena Alexander, associate professor with a joint appointment in the schools of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Policy and Urban Affairs, says bullet trains are certainly feasible in the U.S., but would require significant investment, planning and restructuring of the existing system to make it possible.

In short, the effort calls for nothing short of a complete transformation of U.S. infrastructure — a multi-trillion dollar package that would entail a significant reshaping of legislative priorities.

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