“Volcanoes Disrupt European Travel; Weakens Economy.”
“Coal Mine Explosion Kills 23.”
“Oil Spill Threatens Domestic Energy Supply; Harms Environment.”
These are recent headlines that heighten the need for America to move thoughtfully, but quickly to plan, build and operate a new transportation alternative that will help relieve congestion in virtually all modes of America’s transportation system. If powered by nuclear and renewable energy, this will reduce both the nation’s carbon footprint as well as its dependence on fossil fuels and potentially create and retain tens of thousands of good paying jobs.
In February 2009, the Obama administration announced that $8 billion would be included in the economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), to begin work that would fulfill the President’s vision of high-speed rail service in America comparable to the service enjoyed for decades in Japan, in much of Europe, and now in China, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
In making his announcement, the president said:
“Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and waterways for the future. That investment is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America.”
According to the Department of Transportation’s “Vision for American High Speed Rail,” a publication issued late last year, “The president proposed a long-term strategy intended to build an efficient, high-speed passenger rail network of 100- to 600-mile intercity corridors, as one element of a modernized transportation system.
“In the near term,” said the administration, “this proposal lays the foundation for that network by investing in intercity rail infrastructure, equipment and intermodal connections, beginning with an $8 billion down payment provided under ARRA, and continuing with a high-speed rail grant program of $1 billion per year (as called for in the President’s FY 2010 budget proposal).”
The department said that the near-term investment strategy seeks to:
“Advance new express high-speed corridor services (operating at speeds above 150 mph on primarily dedicated track) in select corridors of 200 to 600 miles.”
“Develop emerging and regional high speed corridor services (operating at speeds up to 90–110 mph and 110–150 mph respectively, on shared and dedicated track) in corridors of 100–500 miles.”
“Upgrade reliability and service on conventional intercity rail services (operating at speeds up to 79–90 mph).”
The administration is selling the concept of bullet trains – truly high-speed service. At the same time, the administration’s program is incremental, improving or upgrading present service and in some places introducing new conventional passenger rail service.
Through the stimulus package the administration is making what it believes to be strategic investments that focus on three primary areas that will deliver transportation, economic recovery and other public benefits:
Building new high-speed rail corridors that will fundamentally expand and improve passenger transportation in the geographic regions they serve;
Upgrading existing intercity passenger rail services; and,
Laying the groundwork for future high-speed passenger rail services through smaller projects and planning efforts.
The initiative invests or encourages the investment in significant improvements to currently existing right-of-ways owned and operated by the various freight railroad companies and, in perhaps just two or three cases, it actually underwrites the planning and construction of what the administration terms high-speed rail express service — trains that will run at speeds up to 220 mph.