Thinking Big: What About an Interstate Rail System?

With all the billions of dollars rolling around the headlines lately, it’s not surprising that some of the Streetsblog Network members are thinking big. The Transport Politic, for instance, today presents a grand vision for an interstate rail system:

rail_network6.jpg[It]
would have an emphasis on connecting destinations separated by 500
miles or less; for such distances, high-speed rail outpaces airplanes
and in other countries has commanded up to 80% of the market share on
such routes.

Yonah Freemark, the blog’s author, acknowledges the enormity of the project, but points out that there’s a precedent:

Such
a system would require an active federal government funding an
expensive national system, maintaining its infrastructure, and running
its trains. Our government is currently not capable of doing as much,
but with a defined vision such as this — to provide rail service to
all of the nation’s metro areas and to connect the biggest ones with
true high-speed rail — Washington could mature to the task. Back in
1956, the federal commitment to highways was minimal; in one bill,
under one president, the system changed.

Also out there on the network: Fort Worthology has an update on the Fort Worth streetcar project, Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space has a post about on-street bike parking in Seattle, and Bike Providence reports on a lock-lending program at a local library.

  • If John Kerry’s bill for high speed rail funding from the fed passes, and if the California HSR begins construction, I could see this as a long term (think 30 year) possibility.

    Since California has commited to HSR, I think a lot of the outlook for the rest of the country will depend on how this project goes in terms of efficiency and cost. If the L.A. to SF line is a success, that will build confidence and lead to other HSR’s being built in the midwest (connecting to Chicago), and the NorthEast.

    There is precedent for people backing out of these things, though. Florida passed a bond to fund an HSR connecting Miami, Orlando and some other cities just a few years ago, and then the voters repealed that same bond in the next election when more accurate estimates of the cost came out. I am hoping this doesn’t happen for CA. . .

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