Obama's High Speed Rail Plans

Neal Peirce looks at President Barack Obama's ambitious plans for high speed rail and the significant obstacles that stand in its way.
May 10, 2009, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Obama– "High-speed rail is long overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed into cars on the highways."

OK, reality check pause. Except for California–where voters last fall approved $9 billion in bond funding for an 800-mile network to handle 220-mile-an-hour trains–it will likely take many decades for us to clear whole new rights-of-way to build high speed rail systems comparable to Europe, Japan or even China.

Why? The costs, in tens of billions, will be daunting. And America's become tortuously slow, way behind world standards, in building any kind of infrastructure. Some states spend years just adding HOV or exclusive bus lanes to existing highways. And the excuse isn't just environmental safeguards, says former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee. It's lack of moxie–tough, knowledgeable leadership by state transportation directors, made worse by the fact few now have appreciable rail-building experience."

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Published on Thursday, May 7, 2009 in Citiwire
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