Transportation policy expert Wendell Cox recently argued that high-speed rail is not the “silver bullet” to all of the nation’s transportation problems. In fact, he said that high-speed rail is, “greatly overstated in terms of its potential,” expensive, will not achieve the environmental benefits its proponents tout, and ultimately will not reduce traffic congestion. Adopting the plan to simply build as many high-speed rail lines as possible would be exceedingly expensive, Mr. Cox argues, and would actually harm the transportation system because it would force passenger trains on to freight tracks, which would then slow rail transport and increase trucking traffic on the highways.
Mr. Cox’s arguments highlight why a NTPP approach to transportation policy is best. Rather than having a “blind” devotion to one mode like high-speed rail, a mode-neutral approach to transportation would allow MPOs and individual states to develop strategies to achieve desired outcomes in the most cost-effective manner. In this way, while the construction of high-speed rail might be the most cost-effective strategy to achieve a particular outcome in one metropolitan region, elevating one mode of transport over another wastes already-scarce federal funds in a time of grave fiscal constraint.