There is a great analysis of High Speed Rail in America over at Daily Kos.
If there is any area of American life that puts paid to the fiction that America’s economic growth was a miracle of the free market, it must be transportation. From the very beginning, with the Federal construction of the Cumberland Road over the Allegheny Mountains in 1811 and the state of New York’s construction of the Erie Canal connecting the Hudson to the Great Lakes in 1817, it has been the state that has directed and channeled the flows of American economic development, putting its stamp on the very land.
For most of post-war American history, that stamp has been made by a Federal (and state) favoritism of highways and roads over rail and other forms of mass transit. This has had enormous social, economic, and political consequences – the rise of the suburb and the decline of the cities, a national dependency on cars and cheap oil as the economic lifeblood of the country, and an increasingly strained overuse of natural resources as basic as land and water. However, as many people have noted, we have a unique opportunity to begin to change this pattern of economic development with the arrival of the Obama administration, which may be the most pro-mass-transit administration in history.