President Obama’s goal of building a high-speed rail network that at least 80 percent of Americans will have access to by 2025, is facing major resistance in Congress. Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden announced a $53 billion, six year plan to get the U.S. high-speed rail network going with $8 billion over the next year spent towards building new lines and upgrading existing passenger lines in areas such as the northeast and midwest. Unfortunately, Republicans are having none of it. The House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) unveiled a partial list of 70 proposed cuts, including eliminating $1 billion for high-speed rail.
The opposition doesn’t believe high-speed rail is economically viable at a time when our national debt is so high. They have argued in the past to see more more private investments and a competitive market to develop the rail network. Even Republican John Mica, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, who is a backer of high-speed rail said in reaction to the $53 billion plan, “This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio.”
Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin have previously returned federal money for high-speed rail projects in their states, citing high expenses.
With Republicans controlling the House, high-speed rail has a tough time ahead. Of course, it’s too early to tell what the outcome will be, but Obama says that high-speed rail would create construction jobs, help the economy and reduce our dependence on oil. America needs to have alternatives to the automobile, and hopefully politics won’t prevent that move.
WHY THIS MATTERS:
An efficient high-speed rail line in the US could create jobs and reduce our dependence on polluting foreign oil. However, Republicans are opposed to it because of the high costs. If members of Congress can reach a decision that could spur on the progress of a high speed rail system while keeping the budget in mind, we could be on the road to seeing Obama’s vision become a reality.