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Obama Plans Railroad Expansion — Are You On Board?

The latest stimulus bill includes $8 billion for America's railroad system, and President Obama has plans to obtain more tax money each year with the hopes of giving the country's railway a racy makeover. Obama will ask Congress for $1 billion more each year for the next five years. Conversely, President Bush set aside only $1.5 billion for high-speed rail through 2013.

The current amount (added to the stimulus bill during final closed-door negotiations) far surpasses that of any previous railway project. Obama's thinking big, and wants to connect cities with high-speed trains. The project would impact almost every region in the country, at a high price of course.

When I've traveled in Europe I loved the convenience of high-speed trains that connect cities (and countries) throughout the continent. The idea of bringing the American railroad system into the 21st century makes me excited! But, do you think it's worth it?


Join The Conversation
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
What I'm saying is if you want train travel to come back (Not commuter light rail), then you need to make it cheap and easy. Right now it's cheaper and easier to drive or fly. We would need to eliminate the ability to drive so easily in order to make train travel attractive.
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
When you suggested if we go back to trains we should eliminate the interstate system, I felt it pertinent to note that we need both trains AND the interstate...might as well add boats, bikes, skateboards and any other form of transportation available or plausible.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I've driven in Indianapolis during rush hour for 12 years before moving and experiencing Minniapolis/St Paul during rush hour. I agree that we need multiple forms of public transportation, but I thought we were talking about Amtrack, which isn't a commuter system.
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
UnDave have you ever travelled in your car during rush hour in California, Minnesota, New York, North Logan or North Salt Lake Utah for that matter? You need both commuter rail and the interstate for both to be efficient.
Lilie Lilie 8 years
I would probably agree, but I won't, since I don't live here and wouldn't want to talk for people I don't know. You said people "in those other countries" have to take the train because they have to and don't have cars or interstates, which is mostly wrong, and that was what i was talking about.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
"Sometimes people take the train because it's just more responsible." I will agree that some people take the train because they feel it's just more responsible. Would you also agree that the vast majority of Americans take their own car because it makes more fiscal sense, as it costs them less money to drive than to take the train?
Lilie Lilie 8 years
Aw, UnDave, thank you. I never would have known my own country without you. Sometimes people take the train because it's just more responsible.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
What is the difference between all the other countries that have been mentioned and the US? Focus. More people in those other countries take the train because they have to. People here jump in their car and drive, because they can. Take away the interstate system, and make the train the only mode of travel, or it will never be truly viable.
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
ilovevodka ~ I feel like you've beat me because you were lucky enough to try one out! I think it would be awesome.
CoralAmber CoralAmber 8 years
This is a great idea, and I hope this money gets the ball rolling. I would be very interested in taking a fast train as opposed to flying if it were comparably priced, even if it took longer.
ilovevodka ilovevodka 8 years
Jazz Z - you beat me! I too was going to bring up the Japan train system, which is incredible! I used it to travel throughout Japan, it was easy and we were able to see the entire region. They also have an freeway system, so the two can co-exist. Now any time I have to catch a flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas, or Phoenix to CA I think about how much time and natural resources that could be saved if there was a speed train to local destinations.
TsuKata TsuKata 8 years
I can't wait for this. Anything that will let me avoid the airport and TSA is fine by me.
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
UnDave I don't know where you are getting your informaton "IMO, rail travel and interstate systems can't coexist." but in Utah where UDOT just built the controversial Legacy Parkway, it was with the understanding that commuter rail would also have to be extended in order to keep on top of traffic. As far as train travel taking longer... High-Speed Bullet Train in Japan Train lovers around the world are jealous of Japan's high-speed trains. For example, the 1,528 miles Shinkansen railways network has trains that go up to 188 mph (300 kph). "Test run speeds have been 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record of 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets, in 2003."
amybdk amybdk 8 years
I think this is fantastic news. I love train travel! Yes, it takes way longer to take a train somewhere than to drive, but I imagine that speed/time is an issue that would be worked out over time. Train travel, in my experience, has been so much more relaxed and interesting than airline travel.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
$600 round trip from CA to DC and it will take 3 days there and 3 days back. 198 round trip airfare.... You can't even get to south dakota. and round trip from hanford ca to seattle was 370. I got roundtrip airfare for $200 I think 8 bill and 1 bill a year even if 40 years from now, maybe we can finish rail in california....
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
The interstate systems are not as expansive as they are here. Also, as Hainan pointed out, rail travel is almost more expensive than air travel. So if I have to spend $200 for a round trip ticket to North Carolina, and it's going to take me 24 hourse to get there, why not spend $250 for the round trip air fair, and get there in 3?
babaloo babaloo 8 years
I would prefer we invest in ALL alternatives. Drilling for oil, or nat gas for that matter, would be the bridge that got us to the point where efficient and economical battery power would be feasible, and it would secure this country as well. Because even if we do not drill we will still be importing from countries that do not care for us. I'd prefer the money stay in this country.
momma-tikita momma-tikita 8 years
Great idea..Love it. I personally always take the lightrail and subway whenever I can.
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
I agree with a lot of what you said splork, but I would rather invest in new electric battery technology for plug-in or hybrid cars than a temporary fix like trying to drill for more oil.
babaloo babaloo 8 years
Endless motoring is not our destiny anymore. Nor is cheap flying. Our country is going to have to reinvent itself from one that is sprawled over the landscape to one that rediscovers the city hubs. It will take time but this country will have to adapt to new thinking and changes in the way it moves and lives. The airlines are going to die a painful death the next time oil spikes above $150 a barrel. It may be 5 years from now. Or 10 years from now, but oil will resume being a huge problem for this country. Particularly given we import all but about 3% and Democrats in power won't give in to exploring what we have domestically. This will also affect our driving habits over the next 20 years. Expensive gasoline could spell further doom to an already weakened retail sector. Over time retail will begin relocating from the burbs into more dense areas serviced by mass people movers. No one is suggesting that a personal vehicle will not be used in the future, but if this country is going to secure its future then light rail and public transit will have to be implemented. There is no reason that rail service from city to city could not be and should not be invested in.
melizzle melizzle 8 years
The idea is great, but I'm curious if this will really help change our driving culture. There's a whole lot of country to cover with rail transport.
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
I love Amtrak, take it up to NYC a lot for work. I would definitely rather take the Acela than drive the New Jersey turnpike. I also take it out to Harrisburg. Ticket prices are definitely cheaper than flying too. I think regionally Amtrak is great and having a more modern high speed rail system is much needed. I take trains when I'm in Europe too and they are fabulous, this is definitely something I support.
Lilie Lilie 8 years
That's a great idea. Rail travel and interstate systems work well together in France, and I love being able to use both. I think it'd be really nice in such a beautiful country, the USA, to travel by train.
bixmaschine bixmaschine 8 years
As long as there are cars, freeways, and plenty of parking, Americans will always prefer driving - even if gas is expensive. Last summer proved it. Amtrak is a mess, never on schedule, oversells tickets so that trains are "standing room only," takes longer and costs more than driving. I'd take it every single time I had to go see my parents (1 hour north) if that weren't the case, but the train is just not efficient. I'm not sure it can be improved upon at this point in time without rethinking a lot of metropolitan areas - more money. I'd love to see that money slated for improved, safe bicycle lanes on already existing roads, but that's always last on the list of anyone who doesn't commute on a bicycle...can we get some higher ups to cheat death and bike to work for a month??!
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