Whose vision of high speed rail? Not Kentucky's
There’s a big fat hole in the vision of high speed rail in America map. It’s called Kentucky and Tennessee. That hole became evident to the nation this week when the Obama Administration’s award of millions of dollars to study high speed rail was awarded to other states. The best that Kentucky and Tennessee could do was an attaboy to Georgia for their application.
High speed rail works best connecting large cities with pools of potential riders. Ten routes known as corridors have been created. Louisville is part of the Chicago Hub Network. Cincinnati, across the river from Covington, is also part of that system.
Louisville is concentrating on a bridge project to ease congestion to and from Southern Indiana. That project is sucking all the air out of transportation thought in the only city that might someday have access to high speed rail.
High speed rail in the US has lagged far behind Europe and Japan. Americans may approve in theory of energy efficient rail, but in practice, the automobile continues to dominate. And, high speed in America means a jaunty 68 mph. In other countries, speed is measured in triple digits.
Travel by rail was ubiquitous up until the boom times of the 1950s. Train travel for shopping and day trips was a common occurrence. Then the automobile and interstate highways made trains too slow and too inconvenient. Passenger trains went the way of the passenger pigeon in much of America.
That’s a shame for several reasons. A whole generation of drivers, the baby boomers, will soon be looking for alternatives to driving themselves as they get older and less willing and able to handle long distance driving. High speed rail and passenger trains are a back to the future solution. Trains don’t use gasoline, lessening US dependence on foreign oil.
Most high speed trains use electricity, creating an additional use for coal. Creating a national network of trains will create jobs in the building and conserve resources in the long run.
While other states look forward, Kentucky and Tennessee seem to be mired in old ways and old technologies.
In February, 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
, Congress allocated $8 billion to be granted to states for intercity rail projects, with "priority to projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service."
The ten rail corridors identified for potential high-speed development.
In April, 2009, as required by ARRA, the FRA released its strategic plan describing the agency's vision for developing high-speed rail in the United States.
As potential funding targets, the plan formally identified ten corridors
—all previously designated as high-speed rail corridors by several successive Secretaries of Transportation
—as well as the existing Northeast Corridor
. The ten designated high-speed corridors, together with the major cities served by each, are:
- Southeast Corridor—Washington, Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Columbia, Jacksonville
- California Corridor—Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas
- Pacific Northwest Corridor—Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver
- South Central Corridor—Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Texarkana, and Little Rock
- Gulf Coast Corridor—Houston, New Orleans, Mobile
- Chicago Hub Network—Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Kansas City, St. Louis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul
- Florida Corridor—Tampa, Orlando, Miami
- Keystone Corridor—Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
- Empire Corridor—Buffalo, Albany