Interstate System Take Two – High Speed Rail

Finally Obama’s idealism and ambitious domestic agenda has manifest itself in a way that almost made me fog up when I read about it today in the Wall Street Journal. He is proposing a $13 billion down payment to kickstart a national high-speed rail network in the United States that would link major urban centres that are within a reasonable distance of each other, complementing the existing non-high-speed passenger rail network. The existing precedent being the Acela Express service that runs the Boston-NYC-Washington DC corridor. Of course the amount pledged is a drop in the bucket compared to what such a system might actually cost (well over $100 billion at $15 to $25 million a mile depending on the technology) but the intention is there, and the significance; that it is being said by the US president. While his many “teabagging” detractors will see this another brick in the “socialist” edifice of their grand delusions, it seems beyond obvious that (electric-based) high-speed rail is the only transportation solution to address not only the carbon problems inherent in cars, trucks and planes but also does in a way that delivers speed, comfort and convenience. Moreover, there may even be synergies with the existing Interstate Highway System in that the rail lines could be run along existing highway rights-of-way already owned by the government.

I know there are various studies underway in Canada looking at high-speed rail in the Montreal-Toronto and Calgary-Edmonton corridors. I hope governments here will follow Obama’s example and look at opportunities to link in with the US system (e.g. a NYC-Toronto-Chicago line) to create a North American network, as well as the opportunities for Canadian companies such as Bombardier, which could be huge indeed.

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