While Florida Litigates, Japan Launches New “Hayabusa” Bullet Train

While Republicans continue to rail against high-speed trains, pining for the good old days when party founder Abe Lincoln was a railroad lawyer, Japan continues to advance into the 21st century.

The latest: the thin-nosed Hayabusa (“Falcon”) bullet train debuted last week,  making its 300 kilometre per hour (186 mph) run from Tokyo to Aomori at the far northern tip of Honshu in three hours and 10 minutes.

The luxurious trip aimed at the tourist trade will cost $320 US, and treat travelers to business-class amenities as they glide through Japan's gorgeous, mountainous north country. (And Japan East Railway even brags that they're being environmentally friendly while they do it!)

The island nation has been building their network of high-speed Shinkansen trains since the 1960s. That puts the US nearly 50 years behind, but the current Tea Party-inspired crop of GOP governors have taken an ideological dislike to anything rail.

First it was New Jersey's Chris Christie turning down Federal money for an improved rail connection with Manhattan; next Ohio's John Kasich and Wisconsin's Scott Walker rejected Federal money for high-speed rail in their states.

Most recently, Florida's Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in funds for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, even though the deal had been negotiated by his Republican predecessors and Republicans in the State Legislature wanted the project to happen. They went to court trying to force Scott to back off and get out of the way, but on Friday the court declined.

“Based on the limited record before the Court and a review of the federal and state law relied on by the parties, the Court has determined that the petitioners have not clearly demonstrated entitlement to quo warranto, mandamus, or any other relief,” the court said. “Accordingly, the emergency petition is hereby denied.”

So Americans will continue to toddle along at 19th-century speeds, while the Japanese fly along the tracks at 180 mph and the Chinese claim a regular speed of 220 mph and top out at a dizzying 302 mph.

It looks like California will get some of Florida's rejected rail money, as it received some of the rejected Wisconsin and Ohio money… assuming any of it survives the current frenzy of budget-cutting. A similar slasher fate may be in store for the additional $53 billion President Obama plans to request.

Image: AFP/Getty

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