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Obama: Better trains foster energy independence

Posted April 16, 2009

— President Barack Obama called Thursday for the country to move swiftly to a system of high-speed rail travel, saying it will relieve congestion, help clean the air and save on energy.

Obama said the country cannot afford not to invest in a major upgrade to rail travel. He said he understands it necessarily will be "a long-term project" but said the time to start is now.

High-speed rail closer to a reality? High-speed rail closer to a reality?

The president allocated $8 billion in the enormous $787 billion economic stimulus spending package for a start on establishing high-speed rail corridors nationwide.

"This is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It's happening now. The problem is, it's happening elsewhere," Obama said.

He cited superior high-speed rail travel in countries like China, Japan, France and Spain.

About six proposed routes with federal approval for high-speed rail stand a good chance of getting some of the award, including North Carolina, which could have a route from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.

The route is part of a larger one that would start in Washington, D.C., run through Richmond, Va., Raleigh, Charlotte and then continue on through Georgia with stops in Atlanta, Macon, Columbia and Savannah and then ending in Jacksonville, Fla..

If funding is made available, the Charlotte-to-D.C. route could be completed sometime between 2015 and 2020. It is expected to cost approximately $2.5 billion to $4.5 billion.

The $8 billion will go to high-speed rail development as well as a parallel effort to improve rail service along existing lines - upgrades that would allow faster train travel.

The White House said funding will move into the rail system through three channels, first to upgrade projects already approved and only in need of funding, thus providing jobs in the short term.

The second and third channels would focus on high-speed rail planning and then a commitment to help in the execution of those plans far into the future when the stimulus funds are no longer available.

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration says the term "high-speed rail" applies to trains traveling more than 90 mph.

Top speeds from Charlotte to Raleigh will reach 90 mph with an estimated travel time of 2 to 3 hours. A one-way ticket is expected to cost $30 to $40.


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  • NC Reader Apr 16, 2009

    "Do you have any children? Outside of the "Experience" I can't see a need to be stuck on a train for hours with kids of any age. At least with an airplane you can get from coast to coast within a few hours. Going to NYC would be the best case scenario to ride a train."

    I have children, and I've taken both the train and the plane to NYC. The train was far easier. For one thing, the seats were larger and more comfortable. Second, you can get up and move around much more easily. Third, it was cheaper by far. Fourth, going straight to Penn Station in Central Manhattan was a heck of a lot better than having to take a taxi from LaGuardia with a rude driver screaming curses at the other drivers in front of my children! So, yes, I've done it with young children and the train beat the plane hands down.

  • Fiberguy Apr 16, 2009

    Having used high-speed rail in Japan and South Korea (and even the MagLev train in Shanghai), I think that a serious exploration of developing high-speed rail in high density corridors of the U.S. is long overdue.

    The portal-to-portal time of trips under 300 miles is equal to or less than that of air transportation, with much less travel stress. An appropriately planned system integrates rail stations with airports, making combination trips (air and rail) very effective. High speed rail can make a lot of sense and could increase our transportation effectiveness from both economic and efficiency viewpoints.

  • viddward Apr 16, 2009

    Based on what I've read on high speed rail, the target of the project is to provide regional high speed rail that can compete with driving or flying between cities that are a few hours drive from each other, not a nationwide system from LA to NYC.

    I have ridden Amtrak and would ride more often if the travel time were comparable or better than driving.

    The State of NC owns a railroad, leases it to Norfolk Southern and sponsors Amtrak service for the state.

    I found information on both NC's sponsorship and the proposed high speed corridor at www.bytrain.org. If managed effectively and the rail lines were leased to freight carriers as a way to make supplemental income, it could definitely work.

    By the way, for those asking about private investment, how many airlines have gone out of business? Transportation costs money. If building a railroad slows down the amount of money that has to be spent on roads and saves all interstates from becoming toll roads, I'm all for it.

  • wildervb Apr 16, 2009


    A train uses far less energy to propel than an airplane or the hundreds of cars each train replaces. So its carbon footprint would actually be way less than cars or planes. Also electricity can be generated by any kind of fuel source, wind, solar, nuclear, hydro are all options. So when it comes to carbon out put, the train is the best.

    homeimprovement, I think the kids would be ok on the train, since they can get up and walk around, look out the windor, watch a movie on their portable dvd player. They'd be fine.

    NCcarguy, if you think high speed rail is a complete waste, why did you work on the project? But seriously, yes the planning stage will cost millions, the building stage will cost billions, the benefit will last for the rest of our lives. Its nice to see something lasting built. In fact, one of the problems with our economy and our spending habits is we waste to much on transient items and not enough on things that last.

  • colliedave Apr 16, 2009

    , I was travelling alone and the cost was less than driving and less than flying

    And I am sure that your fare totally covered the cost of transporting you and included profit for future improvement of the train and its tracks. NOT. Those that desire high-speed rail need to pool their monies and develop a company that will produce such a product.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Apr 16, 2009

    wildervb, I agree that this will create jobs, but I also say that it will be a complete waste of taxpayers money! I've worked on the High speed rail project that is being proposed from Raleigh to Richmond....the government has ALREADY spent millions on this, and not one grain of dirt has been turned over.....it's just not going to happen here.

  • homeimprovement Apr 16, 2009

    "Last year I took a Amtrak train from Raleigh to NY, I was travelling alone and the cost was less than driving and less than flying."

    Do you have any children? Outside of the "Experience" I can't see a need to be stuck on a train for hours with kids of any age. At least with an airplane you can get from coast to coast within a few hours. Going to NYC would be the best case scenario to ride a train.

    I take public transportation everyday. I would imagine it is heavily funded from the government because there are only a handful of people riding at any given time I am on.

  • Conservative Apr 16, 2009

    but but but oh wildervb - under Obama's cap and trade how aer you going to run these trains? Assuming these are electric locomotives, won't be enough power generation to meet this extra demand. On the other hand,if they are diesel - gee - can you imagine the carbon footprint! I get it, the run on solar power - so all trains will run at a speed of 5 mph and that too during hte daytime when it is not cloudy!

    Now, here is the biggest challenge to you - when you reply to this try to keep it civil and rebut the argument!

  • GWALLY Apr 16, 2009

    Posted...."one side neocons that want NO CHANGE and one side that is interested in making America a better and stronger country."

    Statement should be corrected to read....one side neocons....and one side neoliberal democrats that MUST spend YOUR money to make their America correct in their eyes....!!!

  • wildervb Apr 16, 2009


    Last year I took a Amtrak train from Raleigh to NY, I was travelling alone and the cost was less than driving and less than flying. Building a workable highspeed system will take years to accomplish, but when complete will give travellers another option. To me, having more options means more freedom not less.

    Investing 10 or 20 billion towards high speed rail certainly seems like a lot of money. But in the end you have a new service that will be used for years to come. We pump hundreds of billions into farm subsidize year after year is that money well spent? We spent an estimated 10 billion a month in Iraq, what did we get in return?

    Building the high speed lines will create jobs, those people in those jobs will have money to spend which will again go right back into the economy. When they're done building more workers will be required to run the system. Real estate developers will be lining up to buy and develop property around the new stations.