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Getting the U.S. up to Speed in Rail Travel

The United States lags far behind other countries in developing high-speed rail. Examples: Paris to Lyon, 2 hours at 133 MPH; Madrid to Barcelona, 2.5 hours at 150 MPH; Tokyo to Osaka, 1.7 hours at 180 MPH; and Seattle to Portland, 3.5 hours, 41 MPH. President Obama announced plans to bring the U.S. up to speed with new funding for fast train travel. Will America jump on board?

American travelers often return from Europe or Japan disappointed that rail travel in the U.S. has fallen so far behind. The only high-speed U.S. rail service (the one that meets the Federal Railroad Administration's 110 mph threshold to qualify as high-speed rail) is Amtrak's Acela Express connecting Boston to Washington DC.

President Barack Obama outlined plans for a high-speed rail network that would change the way Americans travel. In an AP story "Obama outlines vision for high-speed rail network," writer Jim Abrams reports that initially, regional transportation offices will compete for $8 billion of the $787 billion economic stimulus spending package, bolstered by $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget. The $8 billion is part of $64 billion in the stimulus package for roads, bridges, rail and transit.

In the 1950s, Eisenhower's vision became America's reality: Interstate freeway systems enable carbon-spewing passenger car travel and truck freight that increase our dependence on foreign oil. Meanwhile air and train become prohibitively expensive -- or go under.

This time, maybe we can get it right.


Chris Nelder's "Hi Speed Rail: A No-Brainer" is an opinion piece packed with interesting stats and international comparisons. http://tinyurl.com/hispeednobrain