But that may all change soon. In the spring of 2009, President Obama allocated $8 billion of his stimulus package toward development of more high-speed rail lines across the country, citing the need to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on foreign oil. Currently only one high-speed rail line exists in the U.S., Amtrak’s Acela Express, which can reach speeds of 150 mile per hour on its Washington, D.C. to Boston route. The success of high-speed, high-efficiency “bullet” trains in Asia and Europe, where train rides can be as fast as flying but without the long waits and security hassles, has helped convince American transportation analysts that the U.S. should also take the high speed rail plunge.
The first round of federal funding will go toward upgrading and increasing speeds on existing lines, but the majority of it will be used to jump-start construction of new high speed lines in 10 corridors across the country, including in northern New England, across New York State, across Pennsylvania, in and around Chicago, throughout the Southeast, and up and down the length of the west coast.
A 2006 study by the Center for Clean Air Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology concluded that building a high speed rail system across the U.S. (similar in scope to that proposed by Obama) would likely result in 29 million fewer car trips and 500,000 fewer plane flights each year, saving six billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of removing a million cars from the road annually.
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