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Line dance: Rail proposals yet to gain traction

Line dance: Rail proposals yet to gain traction

The Oklahoman Editorial

Published: April 27, 2009

In touting his plan to expand high-speed rail, President Obama said the proposal "lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways.” But maybe most travelers prefer airplanes and automobiles.

We certainly do here in Oklahoma, and we’re not alone as Deborah Hastings of The Associated Press pointed out after Obama announced that $8 billion of the $787 billion stimulus money would go toward high-speed rail. Since the 1980s, every effort to produce rail similar to what Europeans and Asians enjoy has failed, for various reasons.

California is the only state with an active high-speed rail project, she reported, but its price tag is more than five times the amount coming from the stimulus package. As we pointed out last week, 10 rail corridors, including one in Oklahoma, are in the running for the $8 billion, which means none of them is likely to get enough to do much good.

Hastings said high-speed rail efforts in Florida, Texas and southern California have gone in the tank through the years, done in by costs or resident backlash. A new voter-approved effort in California for a line from San Francisco to Anaheim is already on shaky ground.

Ross Capon with National Association of Railroad Passengers wants more rail service but is realistic, too. "It’s very likely that all of the (stimulus) money will go to significant improvements of existing tracks,” he told Hastings. "It’s not going to build bullet trains.”

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