Transportation Bill Gives US$45 Million To Maglev Project, Sets It Up For Fail

A new transportation bill signed by Bush on Friday would free up US$45 million to build the U.S.'s first maglev train. The train will travel between Disneyland and Las Vegas at up to 480 kph and is meant to help ease traffic on the 400+ kilometre ride on Interstate 15. While I'm all for high-speed trains and efficient public transportation, isn't the Bush administration forgetting something?

Maglev trains are hella expensive. Sure, the $45 million is only supposed to pay for "environmental studies" in the first phase of the project, but the government can probably expect to spend a hundred times that amount before this thing is over.

Japan's Linimo maglev train, located near Nagoya, cost a cool US$380 million to build and it's only 9 kms long. China's Shanghai Maglev Train, finished in 2004 in a country where labour's cheap and private land ownership is a pretty new concept, cost US$1.3 billion for 30 kms of track—roughly US$43 million per kilometre. What will US$45 million buy in the States? 3 metres?

I love the concept of mass transit and one of my biggest gripes with the U.S. is how they let their train infrastructure shrivel and rot, but the paltry amount dedicated to such a pricey technology makes me wonder if this isn't just another attempt for Bush to greenwash his last few months in office. [Slashdot]

P.S. The picture is of the Shanghai Maglev Train, which has been criticised by locals for being showy, wasteful and impractical.