Why does the rail infrastructure of the United States lag behind those of many other developed countries? Where is U.S. high-speed rail? This research approaches this in a dilemma by exploring Amtrak’s traditional rail services and high-speed rail projects in the nation to understand the workings of public rail transportation policies, what they contain, and how they are developed and pursued by the different stakeholders. This research utilizes case studies and a multiscale approach to analyze the territorialization of intercity rail transportation policies. The analysis demonstrates the emergence of a bottom-up approach to projects, notably apparent in the California HSR project and in the modernization of the Cascades corridor. Furthermore, this research concluded that, first, the development of uniform arguments and recommendations to encourage new rail policies emphasizes structuring effects and economic role of high-speed rail, congestion reduction, modal shift. Second, a tangible though uneven pro-rail position exists among public actors at all levels. Stakeholders prioritize improving and modernizing existing corridors for the launch of higher-speed services, and then on hybrid networks that combine different types of infrastructures. Although there are no publicly backed projects for new lines exclusively dedicated to high-speed rail, most of the high-speed corridors are in fact “higher-speed” corridors, some of which are intended to become high-speed at some time in the future.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Passenger Rail

Digital Object Identifier


MTI Project



High speed rail, Railroad transportation, Planning, Transportation policy, Intercity transportation


Infrastructure | Transportation | Urban Studies