I’m usually skeptical of industry-funded studies about the value of megaprojects, but despite the involvement of Siemens I recommend reading the 2011 Economic Study for Midwest high-speed rail.
Building up on previous ideas for the 110 mph Midwest high-speed rail and on SNCF’s proposal, the study goes through all the nitty-gritty details that are often missing from publications geared toward investors and urban boosters. The technical report addresses questions about alignment, transfer convenience, integration with commuter rail, and FRA regulations. It discusses such issues as how to build a tunnel for Metra providing useful regional rail service, why the FRA is likely to let lightweight high-speed trains operate in the US, or whether to route trains through Eau Claire along I-94 or through La Crosse and Rochester on a greenfield alignment.
The proposed cost of the project is $83.6 billion, in 2010 dollars (compare $69 billion in SNCF’s proposal, or $117 billion in year of construction in Amtrak’s one third as long Northeast Corridor proposal). It works out to $35 million per kilometer, which isn’t outrageous but still a little higher than normal for flat terrain; the total contingency in the proposal’s budget is 35% of the base, which is higher than the norm, which is 25%. Construction costs on the French LGV Est‘s second phase are $24 million per km, and those on Belgium’s HSL 3 were $29 million per km.