President Obama has announced an ambitious plan to develop new high-speed rail lines in the U.S., and to improve existing lines so that trains can go faster — up to 100 mph. Obama has requested $5 billion in his new budget for rail transportation projects, in addition to $8 billion in stimulus package funding targeted for rail development. The White House announcement identified 10 regional high-speed rail projects, with lines of 100 to 600 miles, where trains could travel up to 150 mph or faster once they are developed. The projects include:
• A California line from the San Francisco Bay Area south to San Diego via Sacramento and Los Angeles.
• A corridor linking Eugene and Portland, Ore., with Tacoma, Seattle and Vancouver.
• A South Central network linking Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Little Rock.
• A Gulf Coast line from Houston to Atlanta via New Orleans, Mobile and Birmingham.
• A Midwest network based at Chicago with high-speed lines to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.
• Florida Corridor service linking Orlando, Tampa and Miami.
• A Southeast Corridor from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Columbia, Atlanta, Macon, Savannah and Jacksonville.
• A Pennsylvania line from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh via Harrisburg.
• New York State high-speed rail connecting New York City to Albany and Buffalo.
• A New England project linking Boston, Montreal, Portland, Springfield, New Haven and Albany.
The White House said high-speed rail could reduce highway and air traffic congestion and could cut the nation’s dependence on imported oil. In announcing the program, Obama noted that extensive high-speed rail services are becoming common in Europe, and suggested it is time for the U.S. to catch up with the technology. The new high-speed rail initiative is initially directed mainly at laying down the track and infrastructure; as for the eventual operation of the trains, it’s unclear at this point if the Obama Administration sees these projects as something to be run by Amtrak, the private sector, or a combination of the two.