Eight hundred billion dollars.
That's my guestimate for building out America's passenger rail system for a high level of performance. The total breaks down like this:
- Core lines at HSR standards: $510B (8500 miles @ $60M per mile)
- National lines at HSR standards: $160B (4000 miles @ $40M per mile)
- Regional lines at MSR standards: $105B (5250 miles @ $20M per mile)*
- Infill lines at SSR standards: $25B (5000 miles @ $5M per mile) * - Includes upgrading the NEC to 150mph operations.
Now, $800B sure is a lot of money, but over 30 years it's less than $27B per year. For comparison, we've been spending an average of $115B per year on two wars, one of which was entirely unnecessary.
Opportunity costs, baby.
Update 10/10: Heck, we could build out the system with this year's defense spending alone.