Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

US invests another $53 billion in high-speed rail, Canadian study a year overdue

The United States could wind up funding a high-speed rail line to Toronto before Ottawa gets around to publishing the next in a long list of papers researching the idea.

American Vice President Joe Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. will invest $53 billion over the next six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network, with the goal of providing 80 per cent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

“There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said. “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.”

Biden made the announcement in Philadelphia, on Amtrak’s high-speed Acela line from Boston to Washington, D.C.

Plans for expansion of the American system call for connections to Toronto. But a Canadian study of the feasibility of high-speed rail in Canada is now more than a year overdue.

Should the Harper government ever release that study, it will join a long list of proposals to restore high-speed passenger rail to Canada.

The restoration of rapid rail to the corridor between Quebec City and Windsor has been studied (or had a study initiated) at least sixteen times since 1973.

"Like all the previous studies, this one will come back and say, 'Yes, we have the population to support it. Yes, people will ride it. Yes, it will pay for itself," said Paul Langan, who heads a citizens group called High Speed Rail Canada.

This week’s US funding comes in addition to $10.5 billion the Obama Administration previously devoted to a national high-speed rail system. That initial spending is already paying off, according to Biden:

These investments are already paying economic dividends in places like Brunswick, Maine, where construction workers are laying track that will provide the first rail service since the 1940s from Brunswick to Portland to Boston.  Private dollars are also gravitating toward Brunswick’s station neighborhood, as investors have financed a number of businesses and residential condos, a new movie theatre, a new 60 room hotel, and a 21st century health clinic.  Similar high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects across the country will create jobs not only in our manufacturing sector, but also in the small businesses that open near modernized train stations.  They will connect large metropolitan communities and economies through a safe, convenient, and reliable transportation alternative.  They will ease congestion on our roads and at our airports.  And they will reduce our reliance on oil as well as our carbon emissions.

Rail travel produces a fraction of the greenhouse gas that auto or air travel does on a per-kilometer basis. Since transportation is one of the two largest sources of community greenhouse has emissions in Canada (buildings are the other) the gradual conversion to local and inter-city rail travel is widely viewed as one of two viable ways to generate jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Monte Paulsen researches sustainability for the nonprofit Tyee Solutions Society.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus