Sunday, February 26, 2012

Derailed in America

Considering that it was the railroad that help propel this country into a mega economic power and connect the west to the east, it is somewhat perplexing on why many states have stalled or cancelled projects to build high speed rail lines that connect cities throughout the state.

Last year, Florida turned down federal funding for a high speed line. The governor claimed that it was cost prohibitive based on a incomplete analysis.

California is facing funding issues for its bullet train from Southern California to the Bay Area. As a result, that program is on hold.

Now, Honolulu may be facing delay or cancellation of an elevated train project. This project has been in the making since 1968. The ex-governor of Hawaii, Ben Cayetano, is running for Mayor of Honolulu and he is against this project. He claims that it will not alleviate the increased congestion on the major highways and the $5.2 billion in funding could be spent on updating the cities water and sewage infrastructure. He has vowed that if elected, he will prevent this project from being completed. Regardless of his campaign commitments and potential victory of the mayoral seat, it is uncertain that this project can be stopped by this former Governor because of the momentum and push to get this done by other external forces. The first phase of the railway will be in service by 2015.

This does bring up a general question about America. Why do we not like having a fast efficient rail system? It can promote economic growth by reducing traffic and congestion on the highways. Many work hours are lost due to traffic congestion. It also will help the environment by offering a form of transportation that is low pollutant. In addition, it will save people money considering that gas is averaging close to $4 a gallon. Most important, we are not reinventing the wheel here. We can look to the successes in Europe, South Korea and Japan where there are efficient fast rail systems.

If we want to continue to progress and maintain our economic superpower status, we need to stop having a myopic point of view of things. It seems that we are taking steps back instead of forward. We currently have to rely on the Russians to send us into space because we have do not our own rocket ship to send our own astronauts into outer space.

I am not asking for us to shoot to the moon here. I am just asking to get me from LA to San Fran in 4 hours. Is that too much? Apparently, in this climate, it is.

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