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How the Recession will Improve Mobility in the U.S. vs. China

December 30th, 2009

Right: The Caldecott Tunnel is a three bore highway tunnel in Oakland, California. Construction of a fourth bore is estimated at $400 million, of which the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide $280 million. Left: The high-speed rail line that will eventually connect Beijing with Shanghai is expected to cut travel time from 10 hours to four when the line opens in a couple of years. China's economic stimulus plan will help pay for 16,000 miles of new high-speed rail lines.
Similar to how the Interstates reshaped America 50 years ago, the Chinese landscape is now being reshaped by historic levels of infrastructure spending. While the U.S. government seeks to revive it’s struggling economy in part by spending billions on shovel-ready, band-aid projects (i.e. re-surfacing roads), it seems Beijing’s goal is to put 26 million Chinese to work building new high-speed rail connections between its cities.

The U.S. Paves It’s Way to Recovery

10,000 road and highway projects have been approved to date under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Some of the money will go to repairing crumbling highway bridges like this one in central Missouri.To date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has approved more than 11,300 transportation projects, worth $32.1 billion to be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Of those projects the overwhelming majority, 10,000 to be exact external link, are highway related.

Construction on some of the nation’s largest infrastructure projects is just beginning. The Caldecott Tunnel in San Francisco, set to start construction in early January will be one of the largest ARRA projects in the nation at $192.4 million in ARRA funds. Other major projects will include widening I-215 in San Bernardino, California ($128 million in ARRA funds), widening I-405 in Los Angeles ($189.9 million from ARRA) and the reconstruction of the US19/SR 55 interchange in Clearwater, Florida ($45 million in ARRA funding). All of these highway projects should be completed within 4 years.

In a press release external link dated Monday, December 28, 2009, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “What better way to cap off the year than with 10,000 highway and bridge projects putting people back to work, strengthening the economy, and making travel safer for everyone.”

China Lays Tracks for Growth

China's high-speed rail network will span over 16,000 miles when completed in 2020. All major cities with populations of 200,000 or more will be connected.While the U.S. stimulus plan also includes $8 billion in grants for high-speed rail, get a load of this… By 2020, China plans to pump $300 billion into a vast high-speed rail network which will be the largest in the world when it’s completed. The enormous infrastructure build-out is part of China’s economic push to become a world “Superpower”, but also part of an effort to ride out the global financial crisis.

Last November, as the global economy imploded, China announced a two-year, $585 billion stimulus package (press release external linkor about 13% of 2008 GDP). With infrastructure spending at its core, Beijing would pour money into bridges, ports, and railways in the hope that it could stimulate growth and absorb the excess work force that exporters were shedding as foreign sales shrank more than 20%. And because China’s high-speed rail project had been in the works since 2005 (in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics) it was able to more than double its rail spending this year because, for the most part, it could simply move up plans that were already in place. THAT’S shovel-ready.

So, in 2020, while some drivers in California are sitting in traffic on a wider Interstate 405, much of China’s population will be able to move at speeds of more than 125 mph between any major city. 40 new high-speed rail lines, measuring 11,150 miles in total with eventually connect all Chinese cities with a population of 200,000 or more.

Additional points to consider:

U.S. and China comparison.

Geographically the U.S. and China are nearly equivalent in size.

Since China already has a passenger rail network about the size of our highway system, it will be nearly doubling its mileage of intercity connections.

In addition to high-speed rail, the Chinese are also building a national highway network which many believe will surpass our own interstate highways (in mileage) by 2015.

Through July 2009, China had about 1,200 miles of high-speed rail installed with 16,000 total miles planned. The U.S. has about 457 miles installed. No new lines have been decided but the $8 billion in stimulus has to be spent by 2012.

China has a population that is six times that of the United States, but only has one-50th of the US’ airports.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 at 12:32 am and is filed under Train/Railroad Stuff, Transit + Infrastructure, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “How the Recession will Improve Mobility in the U.S. vs. China”

  1. Bob says:

    Great breakdown Mike!

    We (our society) obviously are mounting a campaign to sustain the unsustainable no matter the costs. Oil is above $83 a barrel again, this is the region in which more airlines go belly up. Current gasoline prices match the 2009 PEAK and will rise as more refiners shut down due to decreased profit margin.

    This is to say nothing of the environmental impact of both road construction vs. rail construction and continued (or increasing) road use vs. increasing rail use.

    Ray LaHood appears to be completely clueless like his predecessors. Very frustrating…

  2. admin says:

    I’m sorry to say it’s looking more and more like that. We were very excited to see LaHood touring European cities earlier in the year in an effort to learn more about the possibilities of rail transit for the U.S. Was that all a publicity stunt? I admit the infrastructure needs of the U.S. are very different here than in China, and significant money needs to be spent to maintain what we’ve got in the short term. But let’s get put that 8 billion dollars to work and start developing a serious plan for the future now!


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