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Call it a "rail shot" -- with all the space race allusions being tossed around by the administration of late, this time the term would live up to expectations. The White House has announced a "comprehensive plan" that dedicates $53 billion over the next six years to achieving the president's newly-minted goal of providing 80% of America with access to high speed rail within a generation. Now this is change we can believe in. Here's the outline of the plan, announced by Vice President Biden:
The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America's domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network. As a part of President Obama's commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America's roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation's economic opportunity, job creation, and competitiveness.This is big news -- and it reaffirms Obama's commitment to building the nation's infrastructure in the most sustainable way possible. And simply the fact that the VP used the language "on equal footing with other surface transportation programs" regarding rail is extremely encouraging. Here's a closer look at the three kinds of corridors the blueprint will create or improve:
- Core Express: These corridors will form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
- Regional: Crucial regional corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high-speed service.
- Emerging: Trains traveling at up to 90 mph will provide travelers in emerging rail corridors with access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.
Obama has long considered high speed rail one of his pet projects, but the funding allotted never seemed to live up to his aspirations. The $6 billion in the stimulus and $7 billion in the budget were seen as a good start; tentatively encouraging -- this can be considered a major commitment. Stay tuned for further analysis of the plan.