Private agendas and the public good: The contested development of high-speed passenger rail transport in the United States

Albert J. Churella, Kennesaw State University


During the 1960s, the United States Department of Commerce (and later the Department of Transportation) cooperated with the Pennsylvania Railroad (later, Penn Central) to develop the Metroliner, an American version of the Japanese Shinkansen. Federal officials possessed overtly political motives, including an effort to build political support for the Democratic Party in the heavily urbanized Northeast. Railroad executives sought federal subsidies for conventional rail passenger service, while building political support for the largest merger in American history. The conflicting agendas precluded the development of high-speed surface transportation in the United States.