Skip to content
CityLab
Government

Why Can't the United States Build a High-Speed Rail System?

The problem isn't geography, demographics, or money—it's federal will.
relates to Why Can't the United States Build a High-Speed Rail System?
Darkroom Daze / Flickr

Virtually every wealthy nation in the world has invested in a high-speed rail network—with the striking exception of the United States. From Japan to France, even from Turkey to Russia, trains travel through the country at speeds of 150 miles per hour or above, linking city centers and providing a desirable alternative to both air and automobile travel. Meanwhile, outside Amtrak's 28 miles of 150-m.p.h. track in rural Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the American rail network is largely limited to speeds of 110 m.p.h. or less. There are few reasons to think the situation will change much in the coming decades.

So why has the United States failed to fund and construct high-speed rail?