High-Speed Rail: Express to the Future or the Third Rail?

February 8, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

Despite a looming showdown over spending and budgets, the Obama administration demonstrated just how committed it is to a national high-speed rail network today. Vice President Joe Biden announced a six-year, $53 billion plan to help reach the goal President Obama outlined in his State of the Union Address of giving 80 percent of people in the U.S. access to high-speed rail in the next 25 years.

The proposal Biden outlined would go a long way towards putting high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs. While $53 billion over the next six years might be just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed to fully implement a nationwide high-speed rail system, it would be a sizable downpayment.

Biden emphasized similar points to those Obama has laid out in the past. “There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation—one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said. “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsources. This plan will help us do that.”

Transportation and infrastructure investments are top-of-mind for a lot of state and local governments these days as they face painful spending decisions. But the question begs to be asked: is high-speed rail the best use of limited resources when the nation’s roads and bridges are in sore need of upgrades as well? What do you think?

Local/State Funding Report subscribers can read more about some of the discussions taking place around this issue in their Feb. 21 issue.

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