(By Josh Marks, cross-posted at Green Forward)
Despite shortsighted right-wing Republican opposition, high-speed rail (HSR) is moving forward in the United States of America. Soon we won’t have to fly across the Atlantic or Pacific to experience world-class passenger train service. President Obama and Vice President Biden get much of the credit for revitalizing passenger rail travel by demanding a federal allocation of $8 billion for high-speed projects as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.
While conservative Republican governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida have denied their residents high-speed rail by rejecting federal funding, and right-wing House Republicans like Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) passes a meaningless anti-California HSR amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (THUD) bill, progressive states like California are pushing ahead into the 21st Century with ambitious HSR projects. The latest good news for HSR advocates comes from The Golden State where last Friday in Sacramento, lawmakers in the Senate approved SB 1029 — $4.5 billion in construction financing through the sale of bonds, including $2.6 billion for the initial segment in the Central Valley for the bullet train line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The legislative victory means that California will now qualify for another $3.2 billion in federal funding.
Friday’s decision marks a huge victory for California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, President Obama, moderate Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the American people. It marks an enormous defeat for anti-HSR conservative Republicans in California and across the country.
And high-speed rail will create thousands of desperately needed jobs, not just in California but around the country. With California moving full speed ahead as the first state to build a bullet train network, the next logical place after California for bullet trains is the most heavily-traveled rail line on the Amtrak network — the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts. Amtrak’s vision for next generation high-speed rail is for 220 mph bullet trains, reducing travel time between D.C. and NYC to one hour and 36 minutes and NYC to Boston in one hour and 23 minutes. Again, as in California, NEC HSR would create thousands of badly needed jobs.
With America moving ahead on HSR, it helps to put bullet trains in perspective in terms of what other countries are doing. Where does the United States rank in miles built and miles planned? The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom recently put together a chart comparing HSR on their Data Blog. Here are the facts:
– HSR miles in operation: U.S. is at 226. That ranks ninth, just behind Turkey and South Korea.
– HSR miles under construction: U.S. is at zero. China is #1 with 2,712 HSR miles under construction.
– HSR miles planned: U.S. is sixth with 562 miles planned, just behind Portugal and Turkey.
Leading the HSR pack by miles of course are China, Japan, Germany, Spain and France. So obviously the United States has a lot of work to do in building more HSR to keep up with other countries.
High-speed rail is a winner. It creates jobs, improves the environment and relieves congestion on the nation’s highways and airways. If you have ever traveled to Europe or Asia and taken a bullet train then you know the many benefits of building HSR.
The best way to continue America’s progress on building high-speed rail networks is to elect pro-HSR political leaders on the local, state and federal level. That begins at the top this November by reelecting President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who are committed to building American high-speed rail.