Monday, April 20, 2009

Oh, how I've wished for it!

The plan that President Obama presented for high speed rail in America.

It’s a wonderful first step to connect the great cities of the nation with high speed rail!
by Charlie Leck

One of the glorious things about Europe is its rail system. It made living there an absolute delight. I’ve written about this before, but our President’s recent announcement of his plan for high speed rail in the United States sends me back to those days when I lived in Paris.

Once when I was living in that glorious city, I was invited to attend a theatre event in Antwerp, about 230 miles (347 kilometers) from Paris. I accepted. On the big day, I took a 15 minute metro ride to the proper rail station in Paris and there boarded a sleek, comfortable train (TGV) that delivered me to downtown Antwerp less than an hour and a half later. Voila! The little theatre where the mimes were going to perform was less than a 10 minute walk through a picturesque section of the city. I had time to stop for a late afternoon dinner with a glass of wine. The performance was delightful. I stayed in a cute little hotel less than a block from the theatre and had breakfast the next morning with one of the two mimes who had delighted me so the evening before. He walked me to the station for a train due to leave at 10:00 hours and I was back in Paris in time for lunch. Encore voila!

The TGV preparing to depart the Montparnasse station.

Critics of the idea of a high speed rail system for America have always argued that we are too vast a nation. The Obama plan really strikes at the heart of that criticism. Notice that it divides the nation into corridors – like the east coast region and the northwest corridor. My only criticism of it is that it should include a New York to Chicago connection.

In any case, it is a wonderful starting point. It will serve Californians well, bringing together the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the great northwest, Portland and Seattle will have very rapid downtown to downtown connections. Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma City will be connected. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Milwaukee and Chicago will have a line that will make travel from here in Minnesota to Chicago a pleasant, time saving trip. There will be connections on to Saint Louis, Detroit, Indianapolis or Cleveland.

It will take awhile to get the system up and running, and I may not get to take advantage of it; nevertheless, it makes me very happy to know it is in the nation’s future.

If you don’t think it makes a difference having one person in the nation’s highest office over another, you haven’t been paying attention lately. Whether you agree with the current occupant of the White House or not, you have to admit the difference is vast.

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