Many countries have or will soon deploy new high-speed rail (HSR) (separate right-of-way (ROW) using technologies that allow speeds over 200 mph) or Maglev (separate ROW using magnetic levitation technologies allowing speeds beyond 300 mph). In the United States, however, though Congress first authorized studies aimed at deploying HSR in 1965, and despite at least 17 different efforts (some with multiple attempts), over the past 40 years nearly all HSR projects have failed to progress. Further, the two which do exist - the Empire Corridor (between New York City and Albany, NY) and Northeast Corridor (NEC) - fall far short of speeds and performance levels elsewhere.
Last year, the Rudin Center completed a study, funded by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), aimed at identifying key elements for successful US HSR outcomes. The resulting report, described in NYTJ (Spring 2005), summarized US HSR legislative
history and developed in-depth case studies for Florida, the Pacific Northwest, and California. This year, MTI funded the Center to develop three more cases - the Chicago Hub, the NEC, and the Keystone Corridor. The following discussion is derived from the Keystone case which, along with the others is undergoing peer review. As one of the few cases where HSR has been (or is about to be) implemented in the United States, the Keystone holds important lessons for future efforts.