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High-speed rail: the California connections

I saw THIS article in CNN news today about U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden announcing a $53 billion plan for high-speed rail in America.

Hurray! It’s about time!

The article also has links to look at similar rail systems around the globe. (For those of you who might want a more accurate view of America’s place in the world….) (Note added February 14, 2011: My only first-hand experience with high-speed rail was on the “bullet train” from Osaka to Toyohashi, Japan, and back, in 1995!)

Anyone who has spent much time DRIVING across the United States (and you WILL! :-) ) has been impressed with the size of the country. My father-in-law once talked with German visitors who announced plans to drive from Ohio to California, then north to Washington state and back to Ohio. Oh, they planned to do it in ONE WEEK. (They must have been using a small map! :-) ) Later, they described driving one entire day toward the Rocky Mountains, in the distance, and ended the day with the Rocky Mountains still in the distance. :-)

The $53 billion (over the next six years) proposal is significant increase beyond the $10.5 billion spent on high-speed rail since President Obama took office, including $8 billion in the 2009 economic stimulus package. Potential funding sources will be announced in President Obama’s budget proposal next week.

Biden said, in a written statement:

(Note added February 9, 2011: Well! That is disappointing. The rest of my entry, which was there last night, is no longer present! [Maybe it was something I said! :-) ] In any case, I will do my best to reconstruct the entry, and to upgrade WordPress, after I publish tonight’s blog! WordPress update is complete and I found a cached copy of the blog, sadly missing the links, which were mostly for California cities in Wikipedia. I will restore the blog text tonight and add links if there is time tomorrow night.)

“There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation — one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said in a written statement. There is a pressing need “to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

I am personally glad to see “vision” in government. We need “vision” SOMEWHERE. We have seen that corporations have become cash-rich during the recent recession and have chosen to “sit on their assets” or invest them overseas. Many of the Republicans, in the new “more-Republican Congress,” are notable only for their “vision” in a “rear-view mirror.” :-) They often see the past clearly (“hindsight is 20-20”), and would like to take us there, again! But alas, times have changed.

I examined the map in the CNN article to see what was planned for California (and my boyhood home of Ohio where high-speed rail (well, sort of – maximum speed is only 79 mph) with an unknown completion date would link Cleveland to Columbus to Dayton to Cincinnati, metropolitan areas that “… are among the largest in the United States that are currently not served by passenger rail!). If I were the new Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives (from Ohio!), I would think about DOING something about THAT situation.

So what is happening in California? The map shows already funded high-speed (dude… maximum speed is 220 mph!) rail in a backbone from northeast of Sacramento through Stockton and Merced and Fresno and Bakersfield and Los Angeles, with a jog eastward and then southward to San Diego. There is also an already-funded section that swings southeastward from the San Francisco Bay Area through Santa Cruz and then eastward to connect with the backbone.

In addition, there is new rail planned along the backbone, a section directly southeast from L.A. to San Diego, and a section swinging northwest and north nearer the coast, from L.A. to San Luis Obispo. The down payment is $2.25 billion with the total cost unknown. There are 800 miles of NEW track and 880 miles of upgraded track, and “Phase I calls for a 520-mile system connecting Anaheim and Los Angeles through the Central Valley to San Francisco by 2020.

I am glad to see that the three states in which I have lived for longer than 2 years (Ohio, Wisconsin, and California) are all “on-board” with the plan, to one extent or another.

Assuming a successful passage through Congress, watching the high-speed infrastructure “build out” would give me one more reason to live a long life! :-)

(Note added February 9, 2011: Not to be outdone, House Republicans are pushing energy and science cuts. It’s a good thing that there is one fewer Republican in the House tonight. If we could just get all of the other members of the House of Representatives who make “profound mistakes” [some routinely] to resign! :-) The Republican suggestions include ELIMINATING 60 programs entirely, including Obama’s effort to build a network of high-speed passenger trains.

I will say this, that the corporate friends of those Republicans are not doing much to hire back the [official] 13.9 million unemployed people in this country. The actual total, because of methods for counting, is MUCH higher. How about letting government take a shot? It worked with the CCC in the Great Depression. Otherwise, how about getting on your corporate friends [oh, I mean your corporate sponsors] to put some people back to work in the country in which they are registered and established?

Or would that be too patriotic…?)

-Bill at

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