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Group looks to USHSR in age of high-speed rail

Group looks to USHSR in age of high-speed rail

OUR VIEWS: Organization dreams big

The Oklahoman Editorial

Published: July 13, 2009

Ah, what grand dreams President Barack Obama has prompted with his call for high-speed rail in America.

Oklahoma train lovers are no doubt counting the days to the time when Oklahoma City and Tulsa are tied by some sort of bullet train. This region of the country is one of 10 corridors identified by the Federal Railroad Administration for potential high-speed projects.

Obama’s call, and his offer to throw $8 billion at the project to get things kicked off, has led to the establishment of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, or USHSR, to promote the idea. USHSR says it is working with the International Union of Railways, in Paris, "to bring their international expertise and standards for high-speed rail development to America.”

USHSR’s advisory board includes the head of the UIC, a man named Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, who said Obama’s call "announces a fascinating time for railway development in America.” Time will tell.

As we have written more than once, the $8 billion that the president has promised won’t begin to make a dent in the construction of high-speed rail. Consider that the estimated price tag for the infrastructure alone for a line from Oklahoma City to Tulsa has been placed at about $2 billion. And any train placed on those tracks would need an annual state subsidy to remain operational.

But hey, there’s no reason to let facts stand in the way of a good idea. Obama, who has a shine for all things European, figures we can cobble together a train system similar to Europe’s, too. He sees trains as a way to "change the way we travel in America.”

The folks at USHSR love the idea. The organization is pushing for development of "an entirely new industry, which will revive our economy and manufacturing sector by creating millions of new jobs.” The new system "will greatly reduce our dependence on oil and significantly lower our carbon footprint.” Obama couldn’t have said it any better.

The organization’s Web site ( foresees Oklahoma City and Tulsa being linked by high-speed rail by 2020, with the line stretching from Dallas-Fort Worth to Kansas City by 2025 and then from San Antonio to Omaha, Neb., by 2030. It’s all part of what USHSR expects will eventually be 17,000 miles worth of high-speed rail from coast to coast.

USHSR plans a number of conferences with advisers and policymakers, the first of which is scheduled for Washington, D.C., in October. Maybe these get-togethers will provide a clue as to how this dream system would be paid for. Somehow, though, we doubt it.

Obama, who has a shine for all things European, figures we can cobble together a train system similar to Europe’s.

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