The FRA should never have been asked to oversee the project, said Thomas Hart Jr, president of the pro-rail consulting group Rail Forward. It was inexperienced, needlessly bureaucratic, and had “neither the experience, the staff, nor the regulations” in place to make high-speed rail work. To Hart’s mind, the largest problems were strategic: The FRA “tried to do too much with too little” by spreading the money across the nation rather than targeting the best possible projects, while simultaneously shutting out small or minority-owned businesses. He also believes the federal government made a fatal misstep in allowing Amtrak to run the projects, rather than opening it up to more experienced foreign competitors.
…“The question really is, for us as an industry and as a company, in being pragmatic,” he said. All over the country, there are underserved segments of around 300 miles which are ripe for high-quality rail, he added. “We don’t even need to spend money on necessarily expensive high-speed trains—just getting what we have today working well at a hundred miles an hour, which is very feasible, is really viable.”
Europe might have some of the world’s best high-speed rail, but it also had a great network of slower, 80-mile-per-hour trains, said Harris. “We should aspire to that first. We can deliver that and make a lot of people happy, without spending $100 million.”