In 2009, President Obama announced a plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within the next 25 years with funding from federal, state and industrial sources. To accomplish this plan, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) created the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR) to revitalize and update America’s railways. The program focuses on three key objectives (direct from the FRA’s website):
- Building new high-speed rail corridors that expand and fundamentally improve passenger transportation in the geographic regions they serve.
- Upgrading existing intercity passenger rail corridors to improve reliability, speed, and frequency of existing services; and
- Laying the groundwork for future high-speed rail services through corridor and state planning efforts.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, gave $8 billion to railway revitalization efforts. Since then, an additional $2.1 billion has been added to HSIPR, making the program’s total funding $10.1 billion.
One of the many projects HSIPR is investing in is the California High-Speed Rail project, an 800-mile-long route through the heart of the largest US state. HSIPR added a $300 million investment to the $9.95 billion funded by Proposition 1A, passed by CA voters in 2008. It will be the nation’s first 220-mph high-speed rail system and allow commuters and tourists to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours (it currently takes around eight hours via one reeeally long drive). Passengers will be able to travel the amazing system beginning in 2020 and once it’s completed, it will be possible to travel from Sacramento to San Diego by train.
Is high-speed rail expensive? Definitely. To revitalize and upgrade the nation’s railroads, billions of dollars are needed. Current estimates for the California High-Speed Rail project put the cost at around $100 billion. Despite the high cost, high-speed rail investment is most definitely worth it. In the short-term, projects like the one in California put 600,000 people to work constructing the rail line itself. In the long-term, commuting times between cities hundreds of miles apart are shortened (by hours), almost half a million people have jobs working for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), existing routes are updated and improved, travel across the state – whether for business or pleasure – is clean and efficient, and goods and services can move quickly across great distances. Oh, and the fact that we’re in a bad economy is all the more reason to invest in improving the channels through which our economy operates.
Several nations around the globe have invested in high-speed rail and the results have been positive. Economies are stronger and the world is a little smaller and cleaner. California and the rest of the United States are going in the right direction by revitalizing their national railroad systems, laying the groundwork for a prosperous century.
*As a California resident, I think it’s amazing that my state is once again leading the way in innovation. I cannot wait to travel across the state in such a state-of-the-art, fast train. 🙂
The Big Picture: The CA High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2009 Business Plan
California High-Speed Rail: A Visual Tour