Almost Everybody Loves
the Plan for High-Speed Trains

Connecting Major Cities with New Efficient Eco-Friendly Railroads

In a time when pollution and greenhouse gases are growing to potentially dangerous levels, high-speed trains will help the country significantly.

They are a fast, efficient and environmental sound investment. California should be taking advantage.

The Transcontinental Railroad, completed in 1869, has been described as one of the greatest construction achievements in human history. Today, when citizens are struggling with rising energy prices, trains are back on the agenda.

During the last 50 years, the United States has focused on building highways for cars, while the automobile industry helped to shut down parts of the railroad system. At the same time, scientists believe that fossil fuels are one of the main contributors to the climate changing greenhouse effect.

When President Barack Obama signed a federal $787 billion stimulus bill on Feb. 17, to help the country through the ongoing financial crisis, more than $20 billion of the money for transportation projects was intended for non-highway construction like railroads. Obama said the government would make the largest investment in infrastructure since the 1950s.

The new President's first 100 days in the White House have been compared to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first 100 days at office during the Depression in 1933. Like Roosevelt's New Deal, Obama's bill includes investment in the railroad system.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, who last year agreed with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on a high-speed rail project, said he wanted a part of the available $8 billion stimulus money to finance the new railroad. The train would make the trip from Anaheim to Las Vegas in less than 90 minutes.

The high-speed rail is expected to pump money from California's economy directly to the casinos of Las Vegas. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, opposed the project and called it "a sin express train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas." However, Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said the train would help the state economy and the environment.

As California suffers from a $16 billion budget deficit for the 2008–09 budget year, other high-speed rail projects also need governmental money.

It would be more beneficial to start with a link between San Francisco and Los Angeles, as approved by California voters on Nov. 4, 2008 with the passage of Proposition 1A. The proposition would also connect Sacramento, San Jose, Fresno and San Diego with high-speed trains.

The government will partly fund the 2010 budget with money from permits that gives industries the right to pollute. When the permits decline and businesses are forced to buy them on an open market, Obama hopes they will choose to invest in new, cleaner technology.

In his budget Feb. 26 proposal, Obama announced that $10.5 billion would go to the Environmental Protection Agency, out of which $19 million is money intended to reduce the greenhouse effect. Another $12 billion would go to the Interior Department to develop alternative energy resources.

However, opponents say that the expense of meeting environmental standards and relying on renewable sources of energy could make the U.S. industry less competitive. Obama believes otherwise, and it's a good thing he does.

©Torgny Lilja/The Channels (2009)