New high-speed rail map stirs debate

1:32 AM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - A conceptual map from a California artist has lots of people talking about the future of high-speed rail in the United States.

Artist Alfred Twu created this map showing high-speed rail plans right through Denver.

Yet, the concept is just that, right now.

Government officials, planners, and think tanks have created dozens of maps in the past few years on the feasibility and usefulness on the future of high-speed rail.

In 2009, the Obama administration launched a new vision for high-speed trains. That launched a flurry of planning activity across the U.S. and Colorado.

As the leader of the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority High Speed Rail Feasibility Study, Harry Dale says the $1.6 million study he led and completed in 2010 was worth it.

The study, undertaken by 52 Colorado cities, towns, and transit authorities, offered a few conclusions.

"We came up with an overall lesson learned that you have to average at least 70 miles an hour for people to get out of their cars," Dale said. "It did actually give us some background. If you do this right, there is a chance it could make a profit and you could franchise it."

Yet there those skeptical about the billions of dollars it will take to build high-speed rail in the U.S. over the next 25 years.

"You could build a bomb shelter out of the studies, even here in Denver, on rail," said Independence Institute President John Caldara. "If Americans really wanted high-speed rail, the private sector would invest in it, and they are not."

Yet there are those that think planning now is necessary.

"I think you have to stir the pot every once and a while. I think that's what these maps do. They give us the ability to sit back and say 'you know, is this a good idea?'" Dale said. "Ideally, if you're going to burden taxpayers to build a system, you don't want to burden them every year to pay to operate it."

Others think planning for high-speed rail is a waste of time and money.

"The people who put these projects together, I wish they would play with their own model train sets at home and leave the rest of us to worry about transportation," Caldara said.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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