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美媒:为什么美国永远不会有高铁?

  加州?#19981;?#20197;率先迈入未来的州自居,2008年,该州选民确定高铁就是未来。当年11月,他们批准发行90亿美元债券,以启动美国历史上最雄心勃勃的政府基础设施项目之一:耗资330亿美元、连接旧金?#25509;?#27931;杉矶的子弹头列车。

  数年来,乐观主义者兜售上千万加州人快速、舒适、有环保意?#20828;?#24448;来于该州两个主要人口?#34892;?#20043;间的美妙构想。与此同?#20445;?#24754;观主义者则冷眼关注预期成本上升。据最新统计,预算已经超过750亿美元,而且所有人都看得出来,还在不断攀升。

  民主党州长加文·纽瑟?#20998;?#20108;(2月12日)在首次发表州情咨文时呼吁本州把该项目缩减为?#27426;?#25104;本较低、穿越中央谷地的铁路。加州选民可以不再捂着钱包了。但其他地方的选民应该密切关注,因为加州发生的事情体现了美国任何铁路项目乃至任何试图大举重建美国基础设施的项目面临的危险。

  【距离】在世界其他地方,主要人口?#34892;?#20043;间的距离要近得多。大城市相距较近差不多是建设高铁的先决条件,这就是它们有高铁而我们没有的原因。试想,从纽约到洛杉矶——或者到芝加哥、休斯敦或菲尼克斯——修建一条铁路要付出什么样的代价。

  【财富】当然,美国的确有几个城市群似乎具备建设铁路的条件。但我们没有在这些城市之间修建高铁,而是有了特快列车,从华盛顿到波士顿需要八小?#20445;?#32780;?#19968;?#24471;像个沙锤乐手。我们为什么没有建造出更好的东西?因为真正的高铁需要走笔直的路线?#32791;?#21487;不想在时速300英里的情况?#24405;?#36716;弯。修建更新、更好、更直的铁路线需要政府购买甲地与乙地之间的所有土地,并且拆除所有碰巧挡道的东西。因为我们已经非常非常富有,所以甲地与乙地之间不再是农田,那儿有大?#32771;?#20540;极高的房地产,买下来会非常贵。

  【法?#27801;?#24207;主义】 由于历史原因,美国的法律体系向公民提供了数量绝无仅有、可以?#32654;?#38459;挠政府项目的否决点。因此,任何?#30830;?#21047;校舍更大规模的基础设施项目都不得不通过多年的评估?#22836;?#24237;诉?#38505;?#20986;个结果,或者花钱?#31456;?#21453;对者,或者更有可能双管齐下。

  【成本】 美国基础设施项目的建设成本比其他任何地方都高得多。右?#19978;不?#25351;责工会;“左派”?#19981;?#25351;责要价过高的顾问。但他们都在争论症状而不是症结。

  加州彻底展现了所有这些病?#30784;?#20197;较低廉成本修建的那部分铁路根本不靠近人们所在的地方,而是穿过地价较低廉、游?#20302;?#20307;相对较少的中央谷地。这条路线中真正有用的部分——终点——预示着无休止的法律和政?#25991;?#39064;以及巨额成本。这两个终点相距400英里——说到底太远了,?#29615;?#36830;接。(葛雪蕾译自美国《华盛顿?#26102;ā?#32593;站2月12日文章)

  Why the United States Will Never Have High-Speed Rail 为什么美国永远不会有高铁

  Megan McArdle 梅甘·麦卡德尔

  California likes to think of itself as the state where the future happens, and in 2008, its voters decided the future was high-speed rail. In November of that year, they approved a $9 billion bond issue to begin one of the most ambitious government infrastructure projects in U.S. history: a bullet train connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, at a cost of $33 billion.

  For years, the optimists have spun starry visions of millions of Californians traveling quickly, comfortably and environmentally consciously between the state's two major population centers. The pessimists, meanwhile, have grimly watched the projected costs mount. At last count, the estimates had traveled northward of $75 billion, and for all anyone could tell, were still climbing.

  On Tuesday, during his first State of the State speech, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called for the state to scale back the project to a less costly leg that would run through the Central Valley. California voters can stop clutching their wallets. But voters elsewhere should pay close attention, because what happened in California illustrates the perils that face any U.S. rail project, or for that matter, any project at all that tries to meaningfully reshape U.S. infrastructure.

  Almost anyone who travels abroad comes back wondering why every other country in the world seems to have cheap, speedy rail travel while Americans can barely go out for a cup of coffee without enduring either the tedium of an endless road-trip or the indignities of the TSA. Sadly, there is no one reason; rather, there are many reasons, all of them hard-to-impossible to fix.

  Distance. In other places of the world, major population centers are much closer to each other. And big cities that are reasonably close together is pretty much a prerequisite for high-speed rail, which is why they have it and we don't. Imagine what it would take to build a line from New York City to Los Angeles — or to Chicago, Houston or Phoenix.

  Wealth. Of course, the United States does have a few clusters that look ripe for rail. And instead of high-speed rail between these cities, we have the Acela, which takes eight hours to travel from Washington to Boston and shakes like a maraca player. Why haven't we built something better? Because truly high-speed rail needs to travel in a fairly straight line; you don't want to be taking a sharp curve at 300 miles per hour. Building newer, better, straighter rail lines would require the government to buy all the land between Point A and Point B and tear down anything that happened to be in the way. Because we're already really, really rich, what's between Point A and Point B is no longer farmland; instead we have a great deal of highly valuable real estate that will be very expensive to purchase.

  Legal Proceduralism. For historical reasons, the U.S. legal system offers citizens an unparalleled number of veto points at which they can attempt to block government projects. Any infrastructure project bigger than painting a schoolhouse thus has to either fight out the reviews and court cases for years, or buy off the opponents, or more likely, both.

  Cost. U.S. infrastructure projects cost way more to build than they do everywhere else. The right likes to blame unions; the left likes to blame pricey consultants. But they're all arguing about the symptom rather than the disease.

  California displays all these pathologies with a vengeance. The part of the rail line that was reasonably cheap to build didn't go anywhere near where the people were; it ran through the Central Valley where land was reasonably cheap and the lobbies were relatively few. The parts of the line that were actually useful — the endpoints — promised endless legal and political headaches and astronomical costs. And those two endpoints were 400 miles apart — too far, in the end, to be reached.

(完)

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