Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reading China's high-speed rail fortune cookies, and highway tea leaves

Isn't everybody, including the President, the California Governor, the Secretary of Transportation, our senior Senators, our senior Representatives, and all their troops, threatening, over and over, that if we don't build this high-speed train in California, we are going to have to build zillions of miles of additional freeways?

Therefore, dear friends, if we do build this 800 mile high-speed train, we presumably won't have to build all those additional freeways. And, you know what that means. It means that since no matter what the train will cost, highways will always cost more. Put that into your logic pipe and smoke it!

Then why is it that the country with the most high-speed rail miles on the ground and operational in the world, also feels the need to build the most freeway miles, even exceeding our own Interstate Highway System, in which we take such pride? And, although Wendell Cox doesn't mention it, the Chinese are also building more airports and therefore more runways than ever, eventually to surpass ours in the US.

Wouldn't you think that with all their thousands of miles of high-speed rail lines, they wouldn't have to build one more inch of highways? Apparently not.

What's my point?  That this positing of an alternative; that is, matching highways and runways to high-speed rail which supposedly costs ever so much more, is pure hokum.

The rail advocates would have you believe that high-speed rail will take so many cars off the road that we don't even need to repair and maintain our current inventory of highways; we can just let them decay for lack of use.  That is too absurd to even provide a civil response.  


by Wendell Cox 02/22/2012
In some ways, it has been an "annus horribilis" for transport in China (Note). There was the tragic high-speed rail accident in Wenzhou (Zhejiang), the fastest trains were slowed, construction was slowed or, in some cases stopped, and a top railway official was removed for misappropriation of at least a billion Yuan (more than $150 million).

However, China's freeway (motorway) system has achieved a milestone even Deng Xiaoping might have dreamed. In 2011, The Beijing Review reports that China's intercity freeway system became the longest in the world, longer that of the United States, which had been the undisputed leader for at least 50 years.

China added 11,000 kilometers (7,000 miles) of freeway (grade separated and dual carriage expressway) to its national interstate expressway system (National Trunk Highway System) in 2011. With a length of 85,000 kilometers (53,000 miles), China's intercity freeway system exceeds that of the US interstate highway system by 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles). At the end of 2008, the US interstate highway system was 75,000 miles long.

China has built 83,000 kilometers (52,000 miles) of interstate freeway in just 11 years. Much of the US interstate construction was completed over a period of 25 years, from 1956 to the early 1980s.
It is unclear whether the total length of freeways in China is greater than that in the United States. In China, many urban freeways are not included in the National Trunk Highway System. There are also non-interstate freeways in the United States.  Complete data on these roadways is not available.
Note: This characterization of a "horrible year" was made famous by Queen Elizabeth II in a major speech in 1992.
See also: China Expressway System to Exceed US Interstates, January 21, 2011.

No comments: