This report builds on a review of international experience with high-speed rail projects to develop recommendations for a High-speed rail policy framework for the United States. The international review looked at the experience of Korea, Taiwan, China, and several countries in Europe. Countries in Asia and Europe have pursued high-speed rail (HSR) to achieve various goals, which include relieving congestion on highway networks, freeing up capacity on rail network for freight train operations, and reducing travel time for travelers. Some of the key rationales do not work well in the US context. As an example, in the US, freight companies own most of the rail network and, hence, do not need government intervention to free up capacity for their operations.

We concluded the potential to reduce travel times coupled with improved travel time reliability and safety will be the strongest selling points for HSR in the US. HSR lines work best in high-density, economically active corridors. Given that there are a limited number of such corridors in the US, our study recommends the US HSR project funding mix be skewed heavily toward state bonds guaranteed by the federal government. This will ensure that the states that benefit directly from the projects pay most of the costs, making it more palatable to states that may not have HSR projects. For the projects that span multiple states, member states may have to negotiate the level of financial responsibility they will bear, and this will require detailed negotiations and financial setups that are not addressed in this report.

Other measures the federal government needs to put in place include designating a key agency and dedicated funding source, and developing regulations and specifications for HSR design and construction. States that embark on HSR projects should start with formal legislation and put in place structures to ensure sustained political support throughout the planning and construction of the project. The federal government also needs to move quickly to foster educational and training centers to build up the HSR workforce in the country.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Passenger Rail

MTI Project



High-speed rail, Railway, Development, Policy framework, Legislation