Obama Gives High Speed Rail a Shot in the Arm

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Feb 11, 2011  |  Updated 6:30 AM PDT
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Obama Gives High Speed Rail a Shot in the Arm

High-speed train over the Pacheco Pass, courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

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Good news for transit enthusiasts: Obama says "yes we can" to funding high-speed rail. But it might be late summer before the President actually signs off on an ambitious rail plan.

Under a White House-backed vision, trains would travel at 250 miles per hour between Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. It's more than twice the top speed of the Acela trains on the East Coast, which barely break 110 miles per hour due to redundant stops and overcrowded tracks.

The state-of-the-art infrastructure is opposed by some Republicans, even though rail is significantly faster and more cost-effective than highways for smog-producing automobiles.

Obama's budget calls for $8 billion devoted to high speed rail, and the president wants 80 percent of Americans to have access to rail networks by 2035, according to the CC Times.

In past years, Obama channeled $10 billion to high speed rail, with nearly a quarter dedicated to California's project. Construction is expected to begin soon in the Central Valley, although the plans for tracks approaching San Francisco will remain on the drawing board for at least another year. Florida will also receive funding for a Miami-Orlando-Tampa route.

Despite the encouraging gestures, it remains to be seen exactly when Obama will sign legislation to fund ambitious transportation projects. A bill failed in Congress last year, and isn't expected to reach the president until August.

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