Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled to Europe recently to study high-speed trains in Germany, France, and Spain. Spain’s system apparently captivated U.S. transportation officials because of its scope and alleged cost-effectiveness. It’s unclear, however, whether they took away the lessons that count for transportation policy in the U.S.

True enough, Spain may have the most aggressive and advanced high-speed rail plan in the world. Service from Madrid to Seville began in the early 1990s, and the program has been a cornerstone of the governing socialist party’s attempts to forge a sense of national unity.

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