Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama pushes high speed rail: Chicago a potential hub


WASHINGTON--President Obama on Thursday--before leaving for Mexico--highlighted his plans for a massive investment to develop high speed rail networks in the U.S.-- a potential very big deal for Chicago.

Under Obama's "vision" for high speed rail, Chicago is in the running to be the center of a hub network linking Chicago, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.

"What we're talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America. Imagine boarding a train, in the center of a city, no racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes," Obama said.

Obama discussed his high speed plans this morning with Vice President Biden and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has also been involved in developing high speed rail policy.

Nothing happens without legwork. Chicago's Environmental Law & Policy Center, founded by Howard Learner has been doing extensive work in pushing the nation forward on high speed rail in Congress and in the Obama administration.

The president is using stimulus money to jumpstart the projects.

" To make this happen, we've already dedicated $8 billion of Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to this initiative, and I've requested another $5 billion over the next five years. The Department of Transportation expects to begin awarding funds to ready projects before the end of this summer, well ahead of schedule. And like all funding decisions under the Recovery Act, money will be distributed based on merit -- not on politics, not as favors, not for any other consideration; purely on merit."

Below, release...


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 16, 2009

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary LaHood Call for U.S. High-Speed Passenger Trains

Vision for a New Era in Rail Entails Clean, Energy-Efficient Option for Travelers

President Barack Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Secretary LaHood, announced a new U.S. push today to transform travel in America, creating high-speed rail lines from city to city, reducing dependence on cars and planes and spurring economic development.
The President released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high speed rail in America. The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the ARRA and $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. The strategic plan will be followed by detailed guidance for state and local applicants. By late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants.
Additional funding for long-term planning and development is expected from legislation authorizing federal surface transportation programs.
The report formalizes the identification of ten high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation's only existing high-speed rail service.
With a boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama administration launched a competitive process to drive local communities to develop their high-speed rail potential. The President, Vice President and Secretary of Transportation are urging states and local communities to put together plans for a network of 100 mile to 600 mile corridors, which will compete for the federal dollars. The merit-driven process will result in federal grants as soon as late summer 2009.
President Obama's vision for high-speed rail mirrors that of President Eisenhower, the father of the Interstate highway system, which revolutionized the way Americans traveled. Now, high-speed rail has the potential to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, lower harmful carbon emissions, foster new economic development and give travelers more choices when it comes to moving around the country.
"My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come," said President Obama. "A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve. High-speed rail is long-overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways."
"Today, we see clearly how Recovery Act funds and the Department of Transportation are building the platform for a brighter economic future - they're creating jobs and making life better for communities everywhere," said Vice President Biden. "Everyone knows railways are the best way to connect communities to each other, and as a daily rail commuter for over 35 years, this announcement is near and dear to my heart. Investing in a high-speed rail system will lower our dependence on foreign oil and the bill for a tank of gas; loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways; and significantly reduce the damage we do to our planet."
"President Obama's vision of robust, high-speed rail service offers Americans the kind of travel options that throughout our history have contributed to economic growth and enhanced quality of life," said Secretary LaHood. "We simply can't build the economy of the future on the transportation networks of the past."
The plan identifies two types of projects for funding. One would create new corridors for world-class high-speed rail like the kind found in Europe and Japan. Another would involve making train service along existing rail lines incrementally faster.
Under the plan, high-speed rail development will advance along three funding tracks:
Individual Projects. Providing grants to complete individual projects that are "ready to go" with completed environmental and preliminary engineering work - with an emphasis on near term job creation. Eligible projects include acquisition, construction of or improvements to infrastructure, facilities and equipment.

Corridor programs. Developing entire phases or geographic sections of high-speed rail corridors that have completed corridor plans, environmental documentation and have a prioritized list of projects to help meet the corridor objectives.

Planning. Entering into cooperative agreements for planning activities (including development of corridor plans and State Rail Plans) using non-American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) appropriations funds. This third approach is intended to help establish a structured mechanism and funding stream for future corridor development activities.

A Vision for High-Speed Rail in America
Highlights of Strategic Plan
April 16, 2009

This plan outlines the President's vision to build a network of high-speed rail corridors across America. It is the first high-speed rail requirement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 0f 2009 (ARRA).

o VISION--Proposal is to transform the nation's transportation system, by rebuilding existing rail infrastructure while launching new high-speed passenger rail services in 100-600 mile corridors that connect U.S. communities. Similar to how interstate highways and U.S. aviation system were developed in 20th century: partnership between public sector and private industry, including strong Federal leadership that provided a national vision.

o OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS MOVING AHEAD OF SCHEDULE TO STAND UP THIS NEW PROGRAM--Strategic rail plan issued just 58 days after passage of ARRA, before the Congressional deadline. Application procedures expected to be published also before Congressional deadline--this spring. First round grant awards expected to be announced before the end of this summer, up to three years ahead of the schedule required by law.

o COMMITMENT TO HIGH-SPEED RAIL--Unprecedented $8 billion investment in high-speed rail: $8 billion in ARRA considered a down payment on a national network of corridors, along with $1 billion per year for at least 5 years (proposed in FY 2010 budget). Completion of vision will require long-term commitment from both the Federal Government and States.

o BENEFITS OF HIGH-SPEED RAIL--Promotes economic expansion (including new manufacturing jobs), creates new choices for travelers in addition to flying or driving, reduces national dependence on oil, and fosters urban and rural community development.

o HIGH-SPEED RAIL IS GREEN-- Today's intercity passenger rail service consumes one-third less energy per passenger-mile than cars. It is estimated that if we built high-speed rail lines on all federally-designated corridors (on map), it could result in an annual reduction of 6 billion pounds of CO2.

o TRANSPARENT APPROACH--projects selected for funding based on merit/benefits of investment.

· First round of applications will focus on projects that can be completed quickly and yield measurable, near-term job creation and other public benefits.

· Next round to include proposals for comprehensive high-speed programs covering entire corridors or sections of corridors.

· Additional funds will be available for planning to help jump-start corridors not yet ready for construction.

o Ten major corridors are being identified for potential high-speed rail projects:

· California Corridor (Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego)
· Pacific Northwest Corridor (Eugene, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver BC)
· South Central Corridor (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock)
· Gulf Coast Corridor (Houston, New Orleans, , Mobile, Birmingham, Atlanta)
· Chicago Hub Network (Chicago, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville,)
· Florida Corridor (Orlando, Tampa, Miami)
· Southeast Corridor (Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Macon, Columbia, , Savannah, Jacksonville)
· Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh)
· Empire Corridor (New York City, Albany, Buffalo)
· Northern New England Corridor (Boston, Montreal, Portland, Springfield, New Haven, Albany)

Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor (Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, New Haven, Providence, Boston) to compete for funds for improvements to the nation's only existing high-speed rail service, and for establishment and upgrades to passenger rail services in other parts of the country.

OUTREACH--Administration will take a collaborative approach to formulate program; will work with stakeholders to gather feedback on strategic plan and help shape the program.




It's about time we have a broader system of high-speed rail.

The AP reports that the term high-speed rail applies to trains traveling more than 90 mph. Acela is certified to run up to 150 mph but runs on average of 80 mph because of (i) curving tracks, and (ii) sharing the same route with freight and passenger trains; at this speed, it only saves us 20 minutes between NYC and DC (during peak hours) at twice the cost of regular train, yikes!

A dedicated railway will allow us to have state-of-the-art high-speed train. In comparison, French TGV averages 133 mph between Paris and Lyon, and Japanese Shinkansen averages 180 mph on the island of Kyushu.

On a side note, I understand that our "high-speed" internet is also not as fast (or as cheap) as the high-speed internet in Japan and South Korea; it seems like we have a lot to catch up.

This is an excellent idea, and it's great to see a president expressing leadership on this issue. If you're interested in knowing more about this issue,

I have to admit If the current administration could pull this off it would definitely create real lasting jobs in the USA. The real trick would be to make sure that American Citizens are the ones who get these jobs and not the droves of Illegal aliens that are destroying us from within.

this is awesome, it is about time,it is better than using our money to kill,people.

this is great! there's got to be a role here for dukakis. the duke was on the amtrac bd., during the clinton tenure and was instrumental in acela on the east coast.

As a retired pilot (ATP B-727 - DC-9 - Lear Series) I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of High Speed Rail. The airlines have become a rude joke on the public, and are wasteful of resources. This project won't be as easy as it was for the Europeans and Japanese as the distances and terrain will present unique problems to overcome.

The FAA is a bureaucratic agency more concerned with it's paperwork, and Amtrak is simply not getting it. The only thing that concerns me is, will the government allow import of a few hundred boatloads of Chinese laborers to build the system like they did 150 years ago.

Soon the sky's will be flooded with VLJ's (very light jets) piloted by 'businessmen' and allow those with the price of admission whose primary skills lie outside of professional aviation a 'ticket' to operate in the high altitude NAS (National Airspace System). This is a potential disaster waiting to happen. You won't find me on ANY commercial aircraft in the near future.

From the way CTA is managed, I'm not holding my breath about how the government will handle high-speed rail, with Chicago as a hub no less.

I love the idea of high-speed rail hubs in the USA! What made us great in the 1800's was the building of the rail lines Westward by our Pioneering forefathers.
They began crying in their graves when we began ripping up the rural spur lines from Fort Wayne,IN to Waterloo (New York Central System) and many others in the 1970's and 80's and became dependent on our now overextended Interstate Highway System.
Now, if only Fort Wayne appeared once again in the Chicago Hub Plan of 2009.

Fort Wayne, IN

This seems to be a really good idea for middle distance journeys say from 50 to 500 miles.
Fuel use per passenger should be greatly reduced over both car or plane.

It should be noted, however, that the long delays associated with aircraft are in part due to the terrorist threat. Trains are just as attractive a target in terms of a large concentration of people. The same long processing delays may become associated with trains as well in the future.

It appears that America is now moving in the right direction. America’s overwhelming involvement with individual transportation system was the real culprit. But now since that mindset has changed somewhat the future would belong to electrification of railways and deployment of bullet trains. But this sum of 8 billion usd is insignificant when we think about the task ahead.
Most of the existing railway tracks have to be replaced as those will not be able to take the very high speed load and then all those thousands of lines have to be electrified. Since the existing engines and cars making facilities are old type either Japanese or French technology to be used. So it will take decades to achieve the full potential of the system.
Regarding technology of the futuristic transportation system my science fiction novel MEGALOPOLIS ONE 2080 A.D. will be of great help. All the engineering details of future transportation system which would leave zero carbon foot print, sleek and air- conditioned and sophisticated and use a fraction of the energy of the existing systems- all are given. Please see the press release Doc?id=dghgs9b8_13hkjdqtc6&btr=EmailImport

I am a NU transp. graduate --- try running 180 mph thru the southside & downtown Chicago !! in the winter !!! Sooo.......what the great one is not telling you is that the cross country line will be along Interstate 80 - with a commuter service link to downtown. That way it also can serve the O'bama international airport in Peotone that Jesse Jackson Jr. is promoting. This was the Democratic (Daley) plan for over 30 years...also endorsed by Hillary & B.O. on their Indiana campaign stops.

This is excellent to see! My site has extensive follow up comment on how we can get people to get out their cars and switch modes. Visit Switching Modes at

Great. Tens of billions of my money, to build a train I will never ride, to go to a job that I don't have.

Fu ck Obama, that commie pi g.

If this high speed rail is no pipe dream - then
please count all the communites that have been under siege for many years who collar ORD.

I'm sure we can use the x amount in millions to put towards this plan and take it from the 9 center new runway that sits on the planning board for the OMP.

Oh- by the way - Can Daley get his hand on this too? If so then I gues we will have to let his relatives drive the trains in all fairness.

Who will have the beer concessions and other great deals that will go along with it ??

In closing - anything to lighten the plane load from the Daley's air force.

Sign me up! It will put construction workers (me) back to work and give many people an option to travel. Though I doubt ground breaking will happen anytime soon the possibility and potential for growth is very exciting.

As a big baseball fan and frequent traveler in the Gulf Coast Corridor hoping on a green train sounds like a much better option than driving in a gas guzzling work truck to catch an Atlanta Braves Baseball game!

This should be fun !!!! How much is the mismanaged AMTRACK costing us every year??? Now 53 Billion to add to the national deficit....Way to go Barack !!!!!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 16, 2009 9:02 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, April 16, 2009. To Mexico. was the previous entry in this blog.

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