WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama unveiled his administration's blueprint for a new national network of high-speed rail lines Thursday, arguing that such an investment is necessary to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil, and improve the environment.
The president's plan identifies 10 likely high-speed rail corridors for federal funding, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, and New England.
It also highlights potential improvements in the heavily-traveled "Northeast Corridor" running from Washington to Boston, Massachusetts.
"My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way
we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come," Obama said at an event near the White House.
The president cited the success of high-speed rail in European countries such as France and Spain as a positive example for the United States.
Obama's plan would be funded in part through the recently-passed $787 billion stimulus plan, which includes a total of $8 billion for improvements in rail service. Obama has also proposed a separate five-year, $5 billion investment in high-speed rail as part of the administration's suggested fiscal year 2010 budget.
"We're going to make travel in this country leaner and a whole lot cleaner," Vice President Joe Biden said, speaking before Obama.
The president spoke one day after the governors of eight Midwestern states sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood requesting stimulus funds for the construction of a regional network of faster passenger rail lines.
The city of Chicago, Illinois, would serve as the hub of the proposed Midwest Regional Rail System, which would stretch to Madison, Wisconsin, in the northwest, St. Louis, Missouri, to the south, and Detroit, Michigan, to the east.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama pledged to support a national network of faster passenger trains.
I lived in France for 2 years, and while I think this could be a good idea, I think it needs to be done carefully so that this doesn't turn into a big waste of money. I loved the train system in France and found it to be very convenient. However, people need to realize that it may cost just as much to ride the train as it does to fly. That's how it was in France. It is convenient because I didn't have to go through security every time I took the train like I do when I fly, but somehow I can't see that happening in the United States. I think this could be a great idea though, as long as it's planned well.
Why are we comparing this new proposed rail system with Europe, where the distances are smaller! Compare it with rail systems in countries like India, which is two-third the size of America with long distances to travel and a railroad that is a century old (built by the British during their colonial rule). Despite that it is the most successful mode of transportation in that country. So if a century old system can work there why can’t a high speed Japan/Europe inspired system work here?