from Renewing America

Morning Brief: California Reduces Projected Rail Costs by $30 Billion

Canada’s Bombardier Inc. previews a new train for the Swiss Federal Railways (Bombardier Inc/Courtesy Reuters).

April 3, 2012

Canada’s Bombardier Inc. previews a new train for the Swiss Federal Railways (Bombardier Inc/Courtesy Reuters).
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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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California leaders unveiled a revised plan for the high speed train to link San Francisco and Los Angeles (WSJ), with service to begin in 2028. The new plan trims projected costs down $30 billion to $68.4 billion. Re-routing the high speed rail line to take advantage of existing tracks in urban areas reduces costs. Support for the project has dwindled as costs have risen. In 2008, 53 percent of voters approved a bond issue to help fund the project—then projected to cost $45 billion—but today only 43 percent are in favor.

Lawmakers continue to debate the costs and benefits of investment in the U.S. rail network, with high speed rail a key issue. This CFR Backgrounder summarizes the historical development of freight and passenger rail as well as policy concerns and options facing lawmakers.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

Education and Human Capital

Keeping Top Foreign Minds

The Harvard Business Review advocates three steps for easing U.S. immigration policy to keep foreign talent. U.S. universities attract some of the world’s brightest minds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). While many of these foreign STEM graduates want to live and work in the United States, current immigration policy often forces them to leave, and ultimately to contribute their talents to the growth of other economies.

Is There Truly a Crisis in Education?

The American Journalism Review argues that media coverage unfairly shapes the perception that American K-12 schools are failing. The author cites a 2011 Gallup survey in which 37 percent of parents gave their children’s school an “A”—the highest percentage since the survey began in 1984—yet only 1 percent gave the nation’s schools an “A.” Without direct experience, parents relied upon news coverage to judge national education performance. While the author discusses rising average scores in U.S. schools, he does not delve into disparities in the quality of education.

The new report of the CFR Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security asserts that fixing the nation’s underperforming K-12 public schools is critical for strengthening the country’s security and increasing its economic competitiveness.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

Steven J. Markovich holds an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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