Firing the first shot across the budget bow, Vice President Biden announced plans for a high-speed rail network across the United States by 2036, as promised in his State of the Union address. The administration plan would include $53 billion in
February 9, 2011

train photo
Firing the first shot across the budget bow, Vice President Biden announced plans for a high-speed rail network across the United States by 2036, as promised in his State of the Union address. The administration plan would include $53 billion in federal funding paid out over six years.

An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 mph, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn't say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it's likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.

Obama's push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new funding for infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month's State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

MSNBC's The Last Word blog has more detail and a taste of the inevitable tea-flavored Republican reaction:

Dozens of foreign rail manufactures have already decided to expand or relocate to the U.S. And the strong support of state lawmakers means the White House doesn't need to lobby members of Congress for the cash as much.

But, Eric Cantor is just not into the idea. The House GOP Majority Leader said, "I'm not in favor of additional money that we don't have on those projects and we'll certainly look for ways to leverage the private sector as far as that activity is concerned."

Yeah, I'll just bet he will. Right after the vote to replace the Affordable Care Act sometime in 2192.

Raw Story has details:

The service envisages three types of interconnected rail corridors -- including a core express service with electric trains whisking passengers along dedicated tracks at between 125 and 250 miles per hour (200 and 400 kilometers per hour.)

Another network of regional corridors would see trains travel at speeds between 90-125 miles per hour (144 and 200 kilometers per hour) to cut trip times, while a third branch of services would funnel passengers towards speedy inter-city networks.

This is something that should have begun 30 years ago. It would be a different country if it had. Of course, the whacko conservatives have already labeled it a "Soviet-style" transportation mode. Give me a break, please. What do they call high speed rail in Europe? Commie trains? Or Spain's?

Infrastructurist has a list of the top seven high speed rail services that already exist today. Right now. Rail services that link people and cities, open horizons, possibilities for other jobs, keep oil consumption down and make travel easy. As for the idiotic idea that "private concerns should take this initiative up", here's a lesson from Japan:

As excellent as Japan’s rail system is, the privatization of the railways in 1987 into six separate entities, all managing distinct portions of the network, makes through connections between different parts of Japan difficult, sometimes requiring a train change on routes that should be direct.

When the president referred to a "Sputnik moment" in his SOTU address last month, this is what he was talking about. Every developed country has high-speed rail and a networked transportation system with one exception: this one. Without it, we will fall back economically, because our infrastructure cannot accomodate continuing growth, not to mention oil consumption.

Here's what a high speed rail system in this country might look like in terms of areas served:


In addition to the benefit from having such a system, it would mean jobs, jobs, and more jobs. If ever there were a "fierce urgency of now" project, this is it.

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