Interstate High Speed Rail History
America’s steam-powered intercity passenger rail began in 1830 as privately-owned railroads. The railroad companies built opulent train stations nationwide and riders responded with incredible patronage. In 1868, NYC built America’s first elevated train for mass transit. Electric-powered streetcar transit was introduced in 1888 by public utility companies because they were less expensive and less disruptive to build than elevated trains. Replacing horse-drawn carriages, Streetcars swiftly blanketed our cities.
Chicago, Boston, New York City and Philadelphia discovered that streetcars and a handful of elevated trains were insufficient to move people around. Between 1897-1906, Boston, Chicago, NYC and Philadelphia opened subway systems that either replaced or merged with their elevated systems and streetcars. Cleveland opened one subway-elevated line in 1920. All mass transportation modes met at train stations.
Though the first car for dependable driving was introduced in 1901, only rich people could afford them until the Ford Model T arrived in 1908 for $825 — equivalent to $23,007 in 2019. Despite the Model T, automobiles would not dominate American lifestyle until dirt roads were converted to paved streets, boulevards and highways. Around this time, train locomotives started a 30-year transition from steam-powered to diesel-powered.
By 1920, only 1 in 10 adult citizens owned an automobile. So growing automotive and oil companies lobbied Congress, presidents and governors to do more. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 provided additional funding for roadway construction. Together, federal and state funding established the tradition of major taxpayer subsidy to America’s highways, which quickly accumulated to 31,000 highway miles by 1924. Buses were soon introduced as public transit in some cities.
Unlike intercity passenger trains that ran on cheap diesel fuel, elevated & subway trains and streetcars were electric-powered. In the early 20th century, electricity was mostly produced from coal, with oil and hydroelectric dams contributing smaller percentages. Excluding a few cities where streetcars had access to cheap hydroelectricity, like Buffalo near Niagara Falls, more labor is required to convert coal or oil into electricity than to refine oil into gasoline or diesel fuel. Therefore, cost per unit of energy for electricity was more expensive than cost per unit of energy for gasoline or diesel fuel nationwide. Utility companies charged all customers slightly higher electric rates to subsidize the higher energy cost of streetcars and elevated & subway trains.
In October 1929, the Stock Market Crash triggered the Great Depression. By 1931, up to 40% of Americans were unemployed. Relatively few people could afford cars, so they took elevated & subway trains, streetcars and buses. Others walked. In 1932, the American Highway Users Alliance formed with a mission to influence the federal and state governments to continue investing in highways during the Great Depression.
Operating on ever smaller profits during the Great Depression, the fortunes of streetcar and elevated & subway train companies worsened when the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 made it illegal for a business to provide both transport and electricity to the public. One by one, utility companies divested streetcar lines they could no longer subsidize. Elevated & subway trains trains, being faster, more energy-efficient and transporting more patrons per driver than buses, maintained profits a while longer.
From 1936-41, utility companies sold 100 streetcar lines in 45 cities to National City Lines, company owned by a consortium of automotive, oil and tire companies. The consortium made streetcars less desirable by lowering service frequency and maintenance. The consortium also became principle backers of the American_Highway_Users_Alliance (Highway Lobby) that convinced public transit agencies to purchase more buses. Automobile clubs simpatico with the Highway Lobby formed across America.
America’s entry to World War II from December 1941-September 1945 delayed the downward spiral of subway & elevated transit trains and streetcars. America needed oil & natural gas companies to expand refinery capacity to fuel more trains, ships and planes that transported soldiers and materials. Oil, natural gas and metals were rationed in America. As vital public utilities to maintain the economy and support the war effort, subway trains, el trains, streetcars and buses received subsidies and a healthy ration of electricity and diesel fuel. For example, when military personnel arrived by train at Los Angeles Union Station, streetcars transported them to the port for deployment in the Pacific theater of war. The nation’s largest streetcar system also transported 70% of LA residents to defense factories, other workplaces and schools.
After World War II, oil, natural gas and metal rationing ended. Excess oil refinery capacity helped make gasoline and diesel fuel cheap. Unlike Europe, Russia, Japan and China, none of our factories, railroads, bridges and seaports were bombed. By retaining the best transportation infrastructure, cheap gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, huge mining reserves, huge forest reserves, factories and large labor force, America’s manufacturing and transport advantages multiplied over the world. The G.I. Bill coupled with a surging economy enabled veterans to buy their first home. Most desirable new homes were built in the suburbs. That combination produced longer drives to inner city offices, factories, retail centers, hospitals and shipyards. Thus, veterans returning from the war accelerated automobile, tire and gasoline sales.
By 1946, National City Lines bought out streetcars in 82 American cities. Transit agencies in new suburban cities purchased buses because they had the same speed, patron capacity and schedule dependability as streetcars, but used cheaper diesel fuel without electric wire & track installation. To further bus purchases, the Highway Lobby supported suburban politicians who favored converting streetcar rights of way into roadway.
New York City, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia elevated & subway trains used tunnels and viaducts for speed, safety and on-time performance, plus multi-cabin trains for capacity that buses could never match. City transit agencies saved them as what is generically called “Metro Rail.” San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Newark and Cleveland transit agencies also saved a number of streetcar routes that included tunnels. A few New Orleans streetcars and San Francisco cable cars were designated as National Historic Landmarks. They became attractions for tourists who paid a ride premium that spared those historic conveyances.
Los Angeles is the ultimate example of corporate collusion that prevented streetcar conversion to some form of rapid transit. After World War II, oil refining boomed. Defense weapons plants converted to aerospace and became one of LA’s largest industries. A large percentage of veterans relocated to LA for those jobs and great weather. Since there was lots of open space in the 1940s, new suburban housing tracts spread up to a 40-mile radius from Downtown LA. With such large distances between work, schools, shopping centers and beaches, Angelenos purchased a higher percentage of cars than other cities. Hollywood also influenced people to buy more cars.
The Highway Lobby viewed LA streetcar routes as the big prize because, at well over 400 miles, it had the nation’s largest streetcar rights of way. LA metro area is fragmented into dozens of cities. With Highway Lobby backing, auto-centric politicians rose to power over most of those transit agencies. By building ever larger avenues and boulevards to attract business expansion, they put economic pressure on the City of Los Angeles to widen avenues and boulevards to handle a larger volume of cars, trucks and buses, particularly where streetcar service declined.
A merger of the two national streetcar companies in the consortium and rapidly declining streetcar service nationwide prompted congressional hearings in 1946 to review the intent of the consortium controlled by General Motors, Standard Oil, Firestone and Mack Trucks. After those powderpuff hearings, General Motors supplied even more buses to transit agencies.
Los Angeles officials bravely resisted with a lawsuit they hoped would rescue its ailing streetcars. LA had only one short streetcar tunnel into Downtown and it too, was at risk. In 1947, the Federal District Court of Southern California indicted the consortium under Sherman Anti-Trust Law. Long story short, the trial was switched to a Midwest federal court sympathetic to the Highway Lobby. The consortium was convicted, but got off with a wrist-slap in 1949.
Legally unfettered, the Highway Lobby stepped up efforts to rip out streetcar tracks, then dismantle or burn streetcars nationwide. In 1949, the Highway Lobby celebrated completion of the 4-Level Stack Interchange between Arroyo Seco and Cahuenga Pass (“Hollywood”) freeways, while severing streetcar service to the Downtown LA tunnel.
The LA streetcar-death-spiral played out nationwide, though it would take a dozen years for the Highway Lobby to nail the coffins.
Federal Policy Helps One Mode, Cripples Another
The Highway Lobby formed in 1932, expanded membership to freight trucking, intercity bus lines, car renters and road construction companies by 1949. With cars, trucks and buses multiplying like ant colonies on a food trail and a powerful Highway Lobby influencing the Congress and President, a higher national fuel tax was approved to accelerate paving of national highway. Since gasoline cost under 10 cents per gallon, driving at highway speeds was cheap fun, when you could find a stretch of highway.
In 1950, few highways posted speed limits higher than 60 mph due to unbanked curves, insufficient guard rails, too many bumps, stop lights and stop signs. The Highway Lobby, dominated by automotive, oil and tire companies, knew that better highways were needed to convert America to an auto-centric lifestyle. To achieve that goal, automotive companies marketed cars as “personal freedom.” Oil companies expanded service stations along boulevards and at highway exits. Tire companies marketed their road-hugging ability for higher speeds. In an era of only three TV networks and a few national radio programs, automotive, oil and tire companies became the biggest program sponsors. Their marketing pitch was to “demand more and better highways to increase your personal freedom” and “choose better gasoline and tires for higher automotive performance.”
America already had a few limited access, non-stop highways like Arroyo Seco Parkway intersecting Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania Turnpike. They gave a taste of higher, non-stop highway speeds.
Knowing that an intercity network of limited access, non-stop highways plus gas stations near exits would jolt America into auto-centric lifestyle, the Highway Lobby went full throttle to get taxpayers to fund it. Ironically, some of those taxes came from railroad company employees. In 1951, the Highway Lobby convinced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that a network of limited access, non-stop highways with interchanges would boost business productivity, jobs and product distribution.
Together, they asked Congress and President Truman to fund an interstate system of limited access, non-stop highways the would incorporate pre-existing freeways & tollways. They won many converts in Congress, but President Truman was pre-occupied funding the Korean War. He only authorized $50 million in the Federal Aid Highway Act that would take effect in 1952. Something more happened. The goal to interconnect cities with limited-access, non-stop highways added railroads to the Highway Lobby’s crosshairs.
America’s intercity passenger trains used to reach 100-110 mph top speed. In those times, horrific train-ramming-train accidents occurred due to inadequate signaling and lack of parallel siding track for malfunctioning trains to pull aside. Such accidents were rare until growing towns and suburbs built more roadways crossing railways. More people had opportunity to take deadly risks or commit suicide at those railroad crossings. The Highway Lobby reminded news media of every accident to escalate public outcry to slow the trains.
The safest way to preserve train speed was to build more over/underpasses at railroad crossings, improve train control signaling, insert new track switches and add more parallel siding tracks for slow freight trains to pull aside. Since railroad industry profits were thin, they could only afford to add siding track, and then not often enough.
Given the sordid pre-1929 history of railroad company anti-trust behavior, Congress and President Truman had no predisposition to fund over/underpasses at railroad crossings. Instead, Truman’s Interstate Commerce Commission enacted regulation in 1952 that effectively limited trains to 80 mph to shorten stopping distances. NYC-Philadelphia Corridor was the only exception with 80-110 mph speeds because it had more over/underpasses at railroad crossings.
Federal regulation also decreed that passenger trains sharing tracks with freight trains must have heavy locomotives, like freight trains, for train-ramming-train crash safety. An unintended consequence is that heavy locomotives do not accelerate or brake fast. Suburban growth outside cities created more railroad crossings. As a result, intercity passenger trains had to delay acceleration leaving cities and decelerate earlier approaching cities. The results were predictable. Freight trains continued operating at 30-50 mph Average Speed, while intercity passenger trains fell to 50-60 mph Average Speed. Such low speeds made the intercity passenger rail industry vulnerable to competition.
Eisenhower Administration Launches Interstate Highway System
During World War II, 5-star General Eisenhower admired how Germany built the Autobahn network of limited access, non-stop highways enabling faster movement of weapons, supplies and troops. In January 1953, General Eisenhower was sworn in as President and named the former CEO of General Motors to be Secretary of Defense. DuPont Family was the largest shareholder of General Motors. Eisenhower named a DuPont Family elder to head the Federal Highway Administration. In July 1953, the Korean War ended, but income tax rates on the wealthy remained high (before tax deductions). The Eisenhower Administration and Congress were anxious to use those taxes on infrastructure projects to increase auto-related jobs and business productivity in general. Those conditions and a former general’s transportation perspective caused President Eisenhower to go all in for super-highways.
When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Highway Lobby called on him as President Eisenhower about similar highways, he added that they should be used for national defense and emergencies as well. In that manner, President Eisenhower unified three powerful allies (Highway Lobby, Department of Defense, U.S. Chamber of Commerce) in his funding pitch to Congress.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, GM and Ford produced films and reports that convinced Congress to plan an interstate network of freeways like Arroyo Seco Parkway and Hollywood Freeway, rather than tollways like Pennsylvania Turnpike. Oil companies assured President Eisenhower that America had enough oil to be self-sufficient deep into the 21st Century. The Highway Lobby said that faster autos driving more freeway miles would consume more gasoline, thereby producing more fuel tax to fund Interstate Highways. The heavy construction industry said more jobs in every state would create a virtuous cycle of additional taxes to pay for interstate highways.
The truth was more opaque. Higher fuel tax was insufficient to build the Interstate Highway System and few people had an appetite for higher taxes. So the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Highway Lobby helped President Eisenhower convince Congress to transfer general taxes towards the Highway Trust Fund, rather than lower income taxes. Only then could we fund the Interstate Highway System.
With all the stars aligned, President Eisenhower could not have timed a better introduction for his National System of Interstate and Defense Highways Plan in 1955.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Highway Lobby marketed the plan, while the Department of Defense added backroom influence with Congressmen in states having or wanting military bases. In 1956, President Eisenhower and Congress sorted out the fuel and general taxes to underwrite the first $25 billion of construction for 44,000 miles of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway & Defense System.” That $25 billion investment has the same buying power as $239 billion in 2020. Initially, the federal government paid for 90% of Interstate Highway construction. States and counties paid the balance.
With few exceptions, the federal government gifted states ownership of each Interstate Highway. Each state posts speed limits they judge safe for a stretch of highway. The fastest legal speed, 85 mph, was posted in the straight and flat areas of western states and Maine. States took pride of ownership for Interstate Highways, not railroads owned by private companies.
Since most Interstate Highway was built as limited access non-stop freeways, drivers perceived that they only paid for gasoline, when in fact they pay for embedded fuel tax and vehicle depreciation per mile. Given that every American, whether they drove or not, paid general taxes to build Interstate Highway, they subsidized freight truckers, intercity bus lines and car renters to enjoy lower operating costs than railroad companies.
In stark contrast, railroad companies had to pay for 100% of railway construction and maintenance.
You could win a debate that new Interstate Highways and upgraded National Highways were good for America. Oil was cheap and plentiful. Highway construction spurred growth in automobile, tire, oil, concrete, asphalt, construction, freight trucking, intercity bus lines, car rentals, hotel and tourism industries. Those jobs led Unemployment Rate to 4% or less during much of the Eisenhower Administration. People loved more personal freedom to go places in America.
The hey-day 1950s led General Motors to justifiably boast, “What’s good for GM is good for the nation.”
Funding International Airports Kills Intercity Passenger Rail
Even in long-distance routes where intercity passenger trains sustained 80 mph for miles, business travelers wanted to reach destinations faster. Via federal policy and technological innovation, their wish came true. After several tragic plane-crashing-plane accidents caused public uproar, President Eisenhower begrudgingly inaugurated the Federal Aviation Administration to handle air traffic control in August 1958. That was quickly followed in October 1958, when Boeing launched the Jet Age for commercial travel. Boeing 707 jets reached cruising speeds up to 525 mph, flew longer and pressurized to exceed 25,000 feet altitude above most air turbulence. Air traffic control greatly reduced airplane accidents.
Business travelers switched to flying as soon as airports offered more airline routes. Wealthy leisure travelers also loved flying 200-3500 miles across North America, Hawaii and the Caribbean in 1 to 8 hours.
Promising more aviation-related jobs, the Aviation Lobby (Boeing, Lockheed, airline companies, Chambers of Commerce) influenced federal, state and local politicians to help fund International Airport construction via land annexations, special tax district assessments and public bonds. Thus, airline companies used air traffic control, jets and better airports to win over medium and long distance business travelers.
Evaporating revenues forced most intercity passenger trains to cease operations. The few surviving railroad companies focused on heavy cargo impractical for freight trucks. With the railroad industry collapsing, many intercity passenger rail routes were sold to transit agencies in NYC, Chicago, Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Cleveland and San Francisco. Citizens assessed small amounts of local & state taxes to partially subsidize their operation as commuter rail to/from Central Business Districts.
As the economy grew in 1963, trucking took a larger percentage of freight haul business. As revenues further declined, railroad companies let larger chunks of track slip to 70 and 60 mph Top Speed, which reduced passenger rail competitiveness. America felt better about the economy, President Kennedy lowering taxes and avoiding war with Russia and Cuba. Shortly before his November 1963 assassination, Kennedy pushed for more Interstate Highway, International Airport and Rapid Transit funding.
President Johnson followed through on Kennedy’s plan by announcing that the Great Society Program would allocate substantial funding for rapid transit. In July 1964, President Johnson convinced Congress to start the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA) with a $375 million federal funding allocation. He promised larger UMTA funding for 50-80% of Rapid Transit projects. Lurking in the shadows was a small start to the Vietnam War in August 1964.
In 1965, Vietnam War escalation was sucking away larger than expected federal funds. That meant less federal funding for transportation projects. The powerful Highway and Aviation lobbies helped Interstate Highway and International Airport projects command the lion’s share of a smaller transportation budget. Embarrassed by Japan introducing a 130 mph high speed passenger train the year before, Congress and President Johnson enacted the High Speed Ground Transportation Act.
Sporting a misleading title, the act was effectively federal cheerleading railroad companies to research & develop faster trains. It was NOT a federal-funded initiative to build over/underpasses at railroad crossings, modern track switches & signaling, modern electric power systems, more parallel track and railroad fencing in all urban areas. Nevertheless, New Jersey and Pennsylvania built more over/underpasses at railroad crossings and closed many small roadways crossing railway between NYC and Philadelphia to reduce accidents.
By 1966, large connecting chunks of the Interstate Highway System opened, enabling 65-70 mph Average Speed for 2 to 5 hours. That was 10-15 mph faster than Average Speed for most intercity passenger trains. Having lost most long-distance customers to jets, a few intercity passenger trains survived by selling slow-speed scenery and comfort over long journeys to retirees, writers and college students, like the California Zephyr service.
The High Speed Ground Transportation Act did manifest one good outcome. In 1969, electric-powered, Penn Central-owned Metroliner trains inaugurated 125 mph Top Speed between NYC and Philadelphia and roughly 100 mph Top Speed between Philadelphia and Washington. Unfortunately, rail corridor infrastructure remained sub-par. Train control signaling, electric power systems and overhead electric wires supplying electricity to trains were inadequate. Tracks remained bumpy, felt more at high speeds. Since there was little or no urban fencing around tracks, kids in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Northern New Jersey often crossed them or played on the tracks. Schedule dependability issues increased.
By 1970, those collective issues forced a Metroliner reduction to 110 mph Top Speed. In early 1971, Metroliner was again reduced to 100 mph Top Speed for safety and dependability reasons.
America’s transportation mode change was profound. In 1946, there were 9,000 trains carrying 50% of intercity passenger traffic and streetcar track went everywhere in American cities. By 1963, most streetcar tracks and their electric overhead wires were removed. By 1971, there were only 450 trains carrying 7% of intercity passenger traffic. Most train stations were diminished, closed, demolished or converted to non-transportation use. Low passenger volume also killed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Once the largest union of black employees, they became the answer to a bad trivia question.
Conversely by 1971, Los Angeles had a spiderweb of Interstate Highways interchanging with upgraded national and state highways. LA upgraded its municipal airport to a thriving world-class airport. The Highway and Airport lobbies had help. Hollywood often showcased LA’s freeway and airport transportation model in movies and TV programs, as the unofficial version of America’s future.
Amtrak Becomes A Flicker Of Hope For Intercity Passenger Trains
America, once the passenger rail capital of the world, was perilously close to losing it. To prevent that global embarrassment in 1971, Congress and President Nixon enacted legislation to consolidate and subsidize remaining intercity passenger train routes as one public entity, Amtrak. Metroliner was acquired by Amtrak to supply initial revenues.
As the Vietnam War wound down and the first OPEC Oil Embargo started in 1973, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped President Nixon understand that population expansion to suburbs was increasing suburb-to-downtown drives. They in turn, were generating traffic congestion that constrained the flow of goods & services in big cities and crippled most Central Business District real estates values. They helped increase Nixon’s influence with Congress to mostly boost UMTA funding for rapid transit projects in a handful of cities.
Though Nixon wanted faster Amtrak and more rapid transit projects underway before the Watergate Hearings forced his resignation, Congress continued stipulating that the lion’s share of transportation grants go to Interstate Highways and International Airports. Amtrak remained a funding orphan. Without federal grants for railroad overpasses/underpasses, new track switches, a good train control & signaling system, new electric power systems, track upgrades and urban fencing, Amtrak was like slow moving museums preserving American heritage.
In response to the 1973 Oil Embargo, in 1974, incoming President Ford signed an Executive Order limiting all highways to 55 mph Top Speed to conserve gasoline. In defiance, many people dodged patrolmen to drive 65-70 mph. Around this time, railroad and cargo ship companies introduced standardized container shipping, which probably saved the freight rail industry.
In 1976, President Ford convinced Congress to fund enough over/underpasses to eliminate railroad crossings in NYC-Washington corridor by 1984. He also funded a better train control system & signaling system and critical track repairs.
In 1978, President Carter proposed funding for complete overpasses/underpasses at railroad crossings, new trains, a new high-speed train control system, new electric & communication systems, better track bedding, continuous welded rail to reduce bumps and urban fencing in the entire Boston-NYC-Washington corridor. If funded, the Northeast Corridor would be similar to Japan’s high speed rail system that reached 155 mph Top Speed by 1979. But Congress tabled his proposal, discarding opportunity to acquire rights of way and build High Speed Rail infrastructure that would have been 2-3 times less costly than today.
Also that year, the Aviation Lobby convinced Congress and Carter to deregulate air travel — sparking lower airfares, more regional flights and more taxpayer-funded airport expansion.
In December 1979, another OPEC Oil Embargo hit America. Many people wondered if there was enough oil to go around. Overnight, long lines formed to refill gasoline tanks. Gasoline prices increased. To conserve oil, President Carter ordered enforcement of the 55 mph National Highway Speed Limit. Due to re-fueling hassles and slower highway speeds, most people refused to drive over 2-3 hours. That unintended side-effect crippled tourism in the Stagflation Era.
The downtick in economic activity chastened President Carter to propose the Boston-NYC-Washington High Speed Rail upgrade again and spark an Interstate High Speed Rail System. A serious competitor for large federal and state transportation grants did not sit well with the Highway Lobby and Aviation Lobby. They convinced Congress to ride out the storm with OPEC before voting on President Carter’s proposal. Within months after the 1979 Oil Embargo, other nations sold America more oil that returned gasoline prices to a comfortable, yet higher level. Gasoline lines disappeared. Though the National Highway Speed Limit remained 55 mph, people commonly exceeded it by 10-15 mph.
Congressional willpower to build a world-class high speed rail corridor wilted.
In 1980, President Carter deregulated freight rail to restore some of its competitive edge versus freight trucking. A trivia note is that Budd Corporation of Philadelphia also proved that they could make an electric train run 165 mph Top Speed.
Congressmen outside the Northeast knew that Amtrak and UMTA funding did not resonate with their constituency. Once President Reagan arrived in 1981, those congressmen, aided by Highway and Aviation lobbies, started a false narrative that Amtrak and UMTA funding represent “Social Welfare for the Poor“, while they hypocritically promoted rural Highways and Airports to be “Vital Public Utilities” deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Another false narrative was to portray public buses’ 10 mph Average Speed as a viable alternative to Rapid Transit’s 25-45 mph Average Speed.
When President Ford’s railway upgrades completed in 1984, Amtrak returned to 110 mph Top Speed in some stretches of the NYC-Washington corridor, but remained 40-80 mph Top Speed in Boston-NYC corridor segment.
From January 1981-January 1993, Presidents Reagan and Bush I are most responsible for creating a political climate that treated Amtrak and Rapid Transit as Social Welfare. Reagan and Bush I convinced a majority of Congress to cripple Amtrak funding and subsidize slow buses as a substitute for Rapid Transit projects.
In contrast, they awarded princely federal grants to Interstate Highway and International Airport expansion. For example, $4.8 billion of taxpayer money was spent on Denver International Airport. Over the same 12 years of Reagan-Bush Administrations, Japan, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Spain leaped ahead building many 155-186 mph High Speed Rail lines.
As a presidential candidate in 1992, Bill Clinton was aware of the international trend building High Speed Rail. In 1993, the Clinton Administration promised High Speed Rail in America’s Northeast. For the backstory, click the “Interstate High Speed Rail – ACELA” link that follows. For more insights about High Speed Rail throughout America, click the “Interstate High Speed Rail” link.