High speed rail in the U.S. is coming of age

Maybe sometime in the next 10 years a high speed train will zoom along welded rails be-tween San Francisco and Los Angeles as fast as 230 mph. The seed money is there. The stimulus package passed by Congress in April included a five-year $13 billion high-speed rail program. Four companies are hoping to win the contract. None of them are based in the United States.
America’s Department of Transportation, however, has identified 11 potential high-speed corridors and support for the idea has existed — well, since Japan and France set the example for the world years ago.
Siemans, the German conglomerate, is building a system in Russia that will begin running in December and is set to be up to competing with domestic airlines there before plans are made for a U.S. system.
Make no mistake. High speed rail belongs in the U.S. Experience in Eur-ope has demonstrated that it can compete both in fare price and time spent with airline travel. Trains also produce far less pollution than passenger cars and buses. Electricity is their fuel of choice.
Diverting travelers away from streets and highways to trains would also reduce metropolitan congestion and improve public safety.
Another obvious ad-vantage is the small amount of land required for rail in comparison to highways. As if to emphasize the contrast, last Sunday’s Kansas City Star devoted half a page to an argument for a new Interstate-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis with separate lanes for trucks and passenger cars.
Good idea? A great idea for those in cars. The only thing safer and more pleasant would be a high-speed train that would cover the distance in less than two hours — which could be spent napping, reading or chatting with a spouse.
Oh, yes. The welded steel rails that fast trains must have could be laid on state-of-the-art ties and base for much, much less than a new interstate would cost. Furthermore, the new track also would be used for freight, cutting the cost of moving goods between those cities, increasing safety and reducing the rate of highway deterioration substantially.

THE STAR proposed paying for its new I-70 with toll charges, in addition to taxes on fuel and the other things that car and truck owners must buy.
Bringing America into the high speed rail age will cost billions — just as our nationwide system of roads and highways has done. There are no mass transit systems in the whole wide world that do not depend on financing from the public they serve.
The important thing is to build systems for moving people and goods in the most efficient way as calculated taking the broadest possible perspective with the decades ahead in mind. Using such a calculus, rail comes out ahead.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.