Italians show how high speed rail development can work
This second paragraph in particular is most compelling to a policy wonk like me:
Right now, Italy is Europe’s cutting-edge country when it comes to high-speed trains. It not only has two versions, but they’re competing in a socialist-capitalist drama. In one corner is Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa, Italy’s state-owned TGV, and in the other, the privately owned Italo, which launched in April. It was created by two of Italy’s most powerful businessmen, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, CEO of Ferrari, and Diego Dalle Valle, CEO of Tod’s. In effect, Montezemolo and Dalle Valle said to Trenitalia, “see you and raise you one.”
Italo competes with TrenItalia’s Frecciarossa on the country’s two major trunk routes: Milan to Naples and Turin to Venice. Now, before you red staters start to cheer, let me introduce two other relevant facts. Italo exists because in 2003 the Italian parliament passed a law that ended the government train monopoly, but more pertinent, starting around that time, the state built an entirely new system of high-speed track to create the Frecciarossa. (There are some spectacular runs over viaducts and, on the Milan-Florence route, an astounding traverse of tunnels.) And before you blue-staters start groaning, Italo doesn’t get a free ride: It pays the Italian government about $156 million annually to use the high-speed infrastructure.
The lesson for us: the government should build brand-new passenger-only, electrified railroad tracks. And then the government should allow any private company to use these tracks to run their own trains if they pay an annual fee -- in Italy's case, $156 million a year.
That's what the Illinois Tollway Authority can do now, thanks to a new law signed by Governor Quinn in August of this year. Every tollway or turnpike authority in the country that builds roads should get in the business of building new high-speed tracks, paid for by tolling the train companies that use them.