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National High Speed Rail Plan Unveiled, Despite Political Roadblocks

A transportation option established in Europe and booming in China faces regional challenges in the U.S.

by Kevin Murphy

Nov 17, 2010

The US High Speed Rail Association unveiled its vision Monday for a 17,000-mile network of rail service that would criss-cross the United States by 2030 with electric trains traveling up to 220 mph,  despite opposition from some newly-elected governors who want billions in available federal money for highways instead.

The association sponsored a three-day conference in New York that included a series of endorsements for high-speed rail from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other current and former transportation leaders.

The Obama administration has awarded $10.4 billion in economic stimulus money for proposed high-speed rail projects since last year, including $2.4 billion to 23 states announced in late October. Obama has praised high-speed rail as a clean energy option and has lamented how the United States has fallen behind China and Europe in high-speed rail.

High-speed rail is endorsed as a way to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions because people would ride the trains instead of driving or flying to their destinations. It is also seen as an economic development incentive by attracting new industry and business opportunity to areas it serves. Labor organizations favor the high-speed rail because of jobs it would create in the construction phase and beyond.

But the brakes are being put on high-speed rail in some states. Governors-elect Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio want to put money awarded their two states for high-speed rail into road projects instead.

LaHood wrote both governors last week stating that their high-speed rail money cannot be used for other purposes and will be redirected to other states. He reiterated that Monday in speaking to hundreds of people attending the high-speed rail conference.

Akin to the Interstate Highway System?

LaHood likened the dawn of high-speed rail to other turning points in American transportation history, such as the Interstate highway system in the 1950s.

“Just like with interstates in the 1950s, we haven't yet drawn every single route on the map,” LaHood said in prepared remarks. “We don't yet know what every single financing agreement will look like. But it took 50 years to build a state-of-the art interstate system and I believe that 25 years from now we'll have a state-of-the-art high speed rail system, built by American workers right here in the Unites States.”

Opponents of high-speed rail say it is way too expensive to build at a time when the country has so many other needs. The US High Speed Rail Association said its proposed plan would cost $600 billion to develop over the next 20 years.

Some opponents say that greater use of hybrid cars would save more energy than high-speed rail with none of the cost. They also point to continuing operating and maintenance costs that would be a drain on public dollars.

The Nov. 2 election results turned up the volume against high-speed rail as Republicans defeated Democrats who tended to be more supportive.

Partisanship Criticized

“To see them take a political stand on high-speed rail is disappointing,” said Petra Todorovich, director of America 2050, a Washington organization that is part of the Regional Plan Association. The group did a recent research paper that analyzed where high-speed rail is most viable. “It's not a partisan issue,” she said.

Todorovich doesn't see Republican gains in the election as a threat to the overall high-speed rail agenda. “In fact, it could benefit the program by directing grants to a more narrow section of projects that have the most support,” she said.

The America 2050 study said the northeast holds the most potential for high-speed rail because of high population, existing rail lines and connecting service, and intense congestion on roads and airports that need relief.

The study says the four most suitable routes for high-speed rail, based on potential demand, are New York to Washington, Philadelphia to Washington, Boston to New York and Baltimore to New York. Todorovich noted that incoming New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports high-speed rail.

Other areas the study considers ripe for high-speed rail are the Chicago region and the Los Angeles and Bay areas of California.

Hi-Speed Americans

Oil is diminishing in the world. The price of oil, as supply goes down, will go up. America must convert from and oil based economy to a Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, and Nuclear - all electric based economy. For comparison, China opens thirty new Nuclear plants this year! Fact is: energy by oil is getting expensive, and harder to find each day - that's why we drilled in the Gulf, and pay a premium for the extra extraction step for Canadian Tar Sands oil today!

Imagine the soul-bending, gut wrenching paradigm shift America must go through! Even the GM Volt, forruner of times to come and idicator of the near future, allows for the wild American culture to tame itself and adapt to much different circumstances to the Golden Age, that was supported by the Cheap Oil Era!

Burgening Asian groth has placed demands on the remaining world oil resourses too!This drive prices up even faster, exhausts supplies quicker. In spite of there tremendous Nuclear/electric powered bullet train networks with their associated infrastructures, they still demand and aquire more of the worlds remaining oil each Quarter.

America needs to remodel the American Dream to fit modern day realities. Smaller better insulated housing wit locations advantageous to electric public transportation are in order. Nuclear/electric bullet trains will come. Gasoline will exceed $16.00 gallon in your lifetime. The fiat dollar is running out of elesticity! The banks are folding! Unemployables roam the streets now that their industries have been sold out! America is approaching a crisis turning point in the next few decades.Part of the shifts and corrective changes made will be the introduction of not only Nuclear/electric, high speed, bullet trains, but the addition of associated infrastructures, including manufacturing facilities, food growing operations, medical centers, apartment style dwellings and battery shuttle cars - all Nuclear/electric powered as opposed to rare and expensive gasoline as we have today.

The 17,000-mile plan was

The 17,000-mile plan was unveiled more than a year ago and has been on the group's website since then.

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