Megan McArdle says we aren’t going to see transcontinental high-speed rail in the US:
…we aren’t getting a national high speed rail network. Your wallet should be glad. But those of you who would really like to hurtle across the American landscape at 300 mph from Chicago to Las Vegas are permitted a small sigh.
I agree with her synopsis completely. In an optimized and efficient transportation network passenger rail (not high-speed) will fill metropolitan and regional travel needs. But transcontinental travel is the realm of airplanes and automobiles.
I think freight is entirely different though. Trains are the ideal for bulk hauling of commodities and fast, cheap shipping across long distances.