Thursday, April 16, 2009

All Aboard!

That's what I like. Vision! President Obama announced his high speed rail plans today, in a White House press release:
The President released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high speed rail in America. The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the ARRA and $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. The strategic plan will be followed by detailed guidance for state and local applicants. By late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants.

Additional funding for long-term planning and development is expected from legislation authorizing federal surface transportation programs.

The report formalizes the identification of ten high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service.
All the rest of the developed countries and even China are going full speed ahead on building the infrastructure and making the investments in high speed rail. I have been envious of European rail for years. The trains in France are brilliant. England, unfortunately decided that private companies could do it better and de-nationalized their rail system and are paying for it dearly. British rail is not nearly the experience it used to be. We can do this. During his speech, Obama said, "It's being done. It's just not being done here. There's no reason why we can't do this. This is America. There's no reason why the future of travel should lie somewhere else, beyond our borders." He's absolutely right. I have always loved trains and taken rail in Europe every chance I got. I still remember the excitement years ago when Madam and I took the train from London to Edinburgh and then on to Inverness for New Year (Hogmanay). The scenery along the eastern coast of England is fabulous. Scot rail was a little primitive and we nearly froze on the unheated train but still had a wonderful time. My friend in London had given me a silver flask filled with single malt and brandy for Christmas which helped. There are multitudes of great rail adventures in Europe and even still in England (like the train from Settle to Carlisle).

Coming from a railroad family, trains are in my blood and it would be just great if we once again had a rail system in this country...imagine the adventures!

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