Plans for High Speed Rail in the US

17 04 2009

Pres. Obama announced, along with the US Department of Transportation, plans to build the foundlings of a high speed-rail system here in the United States, much the same as we see in European countries and Japan.

From the New York Times:

With clogged highways and overburdened airports, economic growth is suffering, Mr. Obama said at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly before leaving for a trip to Mexico and then Trinidad and Tobago.

“What we need, then, is a smart transportation system equal to the needs of the 21st century,” he said, “a system that reduces travel times and increases mobility, a system that reduces congestion and boosts productivity, a system that reduces destructive emissions and creates jobs.”

And he added, “There’s no reason why we can’t do this.”

Mr. Obama said the $8 billion for high-speed rail in his stimulus package — to be spent over two years — and an additional $1 billion a year being budgeted over the next five years, would provide a “jump start” toward achieving that vision.

Now, my only criticism is that there seem to be some major, obvious gaps in the system (pictured above — click here for the big picture). They have set up hubs, where the tracks are concentrated, but they are not connected to each other. I suppose there’s an argument to be made that the current plans cross no mountains because I think the Pittsburgh to Cleveland (or Columbus) route would not be that terribly more expensive to build, were it not for those pesky Appalachians.

I would also like to see a Cincinnati-Louisville-Lexington-Nashville-Atlanta route, and possibly a more extensive (if empty-ish) route through the Southwest. But, I suppose, the good argument there is that there are few cities and, if you are traveling cross country, how good is going 100mph when you could fly for what may be the same price?

I wonder how the airlines are going to take the announcement?




4 responses

17 04 2009
sidd finch

yeah, the gap between ‘nati and atlanta is disheartening. i’d probably use it once a month if it existed. who knows, maybe if this is especially successful, it’ll happen.

17 04 2009
Jere Keys

If you look at the plans at, you’ll see that the graphic you posted includes ONLY the high-speed corridors. The full plan includes slightly-slower speed passenger commuter lines linking the hubs.

17 04 2009

I think it’s wise given the driving point is not long-distance, but rather commuter-based travel. I do believe the Louisville/Lexington/Cincy route needs to be explored, as I know a lot of people who live in one but do serious work in another. However, beyond a certain distance, as you rightly point out, airplane commuting becomes more effective.

17 04 2009
Montgomery Maxton

I think its perfect. I told Nate a few months ago when driving to Columbus that “Cincinnati and Columbus need to put a high speed train through here.”

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