The future of American high-speed rail
A look at the progress and setbacks of President Obama's proposed high-speed rail projects, both locally and nationally.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - 01:05
CHOO CHOO: Still only a vision on paper, many in America hope to bring a new series of high-tech rail systems to fruition. (Photo: Jon Curnow/Flickr)
One issue key to the American economy's evolution to a cleaner, more ecologically-friendly future is our transportation and infrastructure system. Essential to a more energy-efficient future is a move toward new mass transit, a vision held by the Obama administration. The Obama administration has led the way on connecting the nation with high-speed rail systems, dedicating about $8 billion of stimulus funds to the effort.
The Hampton Roads region may be a recipient of some of these funds, which would connect the area to Richmond and a similar effort is underway to link D.C. to Richmond. Coastal Virginia may also be linked to North Carolina by another rail system and this network would better integrate the regional economies. This could also alleviate congestion for highway commuters and reduce carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, other proposed high-speed rail systems are in dire jeopardy or have been abandoned due to new political pressures. Following the 2010 election results, many state legislatures and governors started backing out of these projects. Notable examples include Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker who rejected $810 million and incoming Ohio Gov. John Kasich who rejected $400 million for the expansion of passenger rail. Other state leaders are hostile as well, and some Republicans have introduced a bill in Congress to make it easier for other governors to follow in this new trend. Many base their dissention on the view that these systems will be operating at a deficit, but it's hard to know how many passengers will get on board and the number may be much higher as fuel costs and airline hassles go up. Additionally, businesses accompanying the project and long-term environmental benefits should be accounted for.
A failure to adapt to the needs of tomorrow may, in this case, contribute to harsher demands on humanity in the future. Fortunately it looks like this advance in public transit will come to fruition in many major areas of the country. With this step the next ones will be easier, and sooner or later everyone will have to move forward.