In California, voters in 2008 approved a 520-mile high-speed rail project that would have carried riders between San Diego and San Francisco at nearly 200 mph. Since then, the cost estimate has gone up, speeds have come down and the route has been limited to a roughly 200-mile stretch between Fresno and Burbank.
Now, the attention appears to be turning to state and local initiatives.
A private company has proposed a line in Texas, while another private proposal would bring high-speed rail linking Miami and Orlando, Florida.
But for high-speed rail to make significant inroads into the United States, the nation would first have to make significant improvements to basic infrastructure, such as tracks and bridges to allow freight and passenger traffic to coexist, said Brookings' Puentes.
"We've got a long way to go," he said.