High Speed Rail Supporters State Their Case at Union Station and Beyond

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Flanked by City Council Members from Santa Monica and Los Angeles, as well as dozens of people waving signs proclaiming "fast trains are cool," CalPirg Transportation Advocate Erin Steva rallied supporters in front of Union Station for increased funding of the state’s planned High Speed Rail Network.  While some "fast train" advocates were questioning the federal commitment to investing in this infrastructure, the federal government is only spending $2.3 billion on High Speed Rail in the next year instead of $4 billion that it promised, yesterday’s rally was upbeat. 

After all, when you combine that $2.3 billion with $8 billion in Stimulus funds already allocated, those numbers start to add up.

However, federal funding pales in comparison to how far behind America is to the rest of the modern world when it comes to spending money on High Speed Rail.  China is expected to spend over $100 billion in the next year and Europe already has a rail network which is more efficient and popular than the airplane system in parts of the continent.  While it’s never good to be behind when it comes to building infrastructure, it does create one advantage.  America is positioned to learn from the successes and failures of High Speed Rail in other countries so that it can avoid the mistakes of the past.  In their report Next Stop: California, CalPirg outlines what some of these lessons are, including:

1. Build it:

2. Focus development
in city centers:

3. Make stations
accessible:

4. Integrate
high-speed rail with improvements to commuter and freight rail:

5. Keep clear lines
of accountability:

6. Use private
participation responsibly:

7. Improve lines of
communication:

8. Maintain budget
discipline and spending transparency.

9. Make it green:

For more on Next Stop: California, visit CalPirg’s website.

Meanwhile, an unlikely argument from an unlikely source was made in favor of High Speed Rail in Washington, D.C.  Representative Don Young (R-AK), former Chair of the House’s Infrastructure and Transportation Committee and the Congressman who named our national transportation funding legislation after his wife, penned an op-ed for Politico that basically called out the Obama administration for wasting money on "big government spending." Instead wasting money on something silly such as running Amtrak, Congress and the President should invest in something useful, such as High Speed Rail.  Young writes:

As a country that is currently beholden to foreign countries for its
oil supply, this should serve as an incentive. Additionally, though
some may worry about the high costs of implementing such a system,
high-speed rail represents the kind of long-term infrastructure
investment that pays dividends for decades.

Our current infrastructure system has paid for itself many times over, and a high-speed-rail system would do the same.

While President Barack Obama is pushing billions of dollars in stimulus
bills that fund Big Government, he is missing a golden opportunity to
stimulate the economy. Investments in infrastructure create jobs, plain
and simple.

While some of those arguments are going to rankle rail advocates, if his battle-cry gets picked up on by Republicans who have tarred High Speed Rail spending as wasteful in the past, it could open the coffers to more investment in the near future.

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