13 Nov 2008
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A victory for high-speed rail
Shortly after joining the Progressive Railroading staff almost six years ago, I was given my first story assignment. The topic? High-speed rail.
I still remember the interviews I conducted for that article — not everything that was said, but the tone of the conversations. High-speed proponents from across the United States were hopeful, optimistic, excited about their high-speed possibilities — even though they had been lobbying for federal funds for years and still had seen nothing in the way of dedicated high-speed dollars ... and despite getting their hopes up time and time again when high-speed legislation was discussed, then dismissed by Congress.
The message was the same when I did a follow-up story in 2006. These folks were certain that, despite the slow road getting there, high-speed rail eventually would be seen as a desired transportation option and funded as such.
So, when California voters passed an almost $10 billion bond measure last week to provide financing for the initial segment of a statewide high-speed rail system, it wasn't just the California High Speed Rail Authority's victory; it was a victory for everyone in the high-speed rail circle.
"It's going to make it a lot easier to do high-speed rail because it's another indication that the public wants to have good, high-quality transportation," says Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. "This changes the scope of what we're going to be doing and what we can talk about doing in the United States — we've finally got somebody putting real money into building new, electrified track."
Presumably, dedicated federal dollars will follow. Hopefully, growing public support will, too, and enable other high-speed rail projects throughout the country advance in the near future.