Expanding High-Speed Rail

Ever been frustrated with bumper-to-bumper traffic, road rage, or hour-long commutes? If you're like me, the answer is a resounding yes. But have no fear. President Obama has a solution! A few weeks ago, the Department of Transportation announced part of Obama's plan to increase funding for high-speed rail systems across the country. They informed us that $80 million in grants has been given to several states to help improve their rail systems. The majority of the funding will be allocated towards the development of a high-speed rail system in Florida. A significant portion of the funds will also be used to create new tracks or repair old ones between major cities in California, Wisconsin, New York, and New Mexico.

That's not all. "The grants released today are merely the very beginning of many more to follow," claims Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. That's just what we wanted, especially considering that Congress already appropriated $8 billion for high-speed rail funding in 2009 and an additional $2.5 billion to this plan in 2010.

Although many Americans would like to believe high-rail transportation is the savior of US transportation problems, this simply isn't the case. Obama's high-speed rail system plan is not likely to reach more than 1% of the passenger travel market. And the environmental benefits? There isn't too much good news on that front either. A Florida high-speed rail study found that their trains would produce more nitrogen oxides and organic compounds and use 3.5 to 6 times more energy than the cars they would replace.

This isn't even the whole picture. Obama has visions for still more extensive rail system repair. His entire plan proposes to update all 12,800 miles of the track system – a proposal that is estimated to cost close to $50 billion. Is the current Administration actually proposing a $50 billion transportation plan – that is neither cost-efficient nor environmentally friendly – at a time when our nation is facing a growing debt of $13 trillion?

Yes. The only encouragement we are offered is that grants such as these are "merely the very beginning" of what's to follow. I guess the "best" is yet to come. Uh oh…