When I first heard about this scheme I was baffled; how could anyone think this could really be built? and if it could be built, how could it ever make money?
But this project is plowing ahead, as the filing if the EIS shows. I of course think this is a great idea, although I have one major complaint: it does not connect to Amtrak at either end, so it won't do as much as it might to promote train riding more generally. Right now it runs from a new station at Mount Vernon Square in DC to Camden Yards in Baltimore. I don't think it is supposed to reach Penn Station in New York, either.
One of the big fights yet to come concerns how much of the route will be on the elevated viaduct and how much will be tunneled, because tunneling costs 10 times as much per mile.
I confess to being very much divided over both this project and the California high speed rail system. Both are staggeringly expensive and don't integrate well into other rail or subway systems, so they are not really what I would design, and I doubt either will ever either be finished or operate profitably. The route of the California system was transparently designed to get key legislators to vote for it, and frankly makes no sense. Public transit advocates keep pointing out that you could help a lot more people by investing all that money in regular bus and subway service.
On the other hand, improving local bus service fails the Daniel Burnham test:
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men`s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever- growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us.
We need big ideas to get people excited about the future. And if we can tap into all those trillions of dollars sloshing around our stock and bond markets, desperately seeking profitable investment, why not?