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Better Late Than Never

14 February 2010

While “Better late than never” (Titus Livius, The History of Rome) may have been coined 2,000 years ago, I couldn’t think of a quote that seemed more applicable to the newly approved high-speed rail system that is to be constructed in the continental United States.

Obama announces America's first HSR

On a recent Thursday, the Obama Administration released its list of high-speed rail funding.  The project has earmarked $8 billion dollars in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment act or, as it is more commonly known, the stimulus bill.  A complete list of high-speed rail related projects and price tags can be seen here.

The first rail to be constructed will be located in Florida along side I-4, connecting Tampa and Orlando.  Trains are expected to run in 2014 and should allow travelers to make the 85 mile trip in less than an hour.  Compared to China’s 217mph bullet train system, our domestic HSR may not seem all that ‘high-speed’ but we would do well to remember that, as with most things in America, baby-steps are required.

After the completion of the line connecting Tampa to Orlando the nations second line will begin construction.  The second line will connect Miami to the first line, allowing travel between three of the largest cities in Florida.  Soon after, rail systems will begin construction around the country.

Across the ocean, in places like Europe and China, High Speed Rail has been an operable reality for more than 70 years.  In Europe there are upwards of 25 high speed rail systems connecting the many countries of the Union; Some scenic, some not-so, but almost all are built with the amenities one would expect to find at a 4-star hotel.  Private rooms, resturaunts, bars, and social spaces make the European rail system a system worth emulating.

In China, what the Shanghai Maglev Train lacks in amenities it makes up for in speed.  It is the fastest passenger train on Earth with a top speed of 431 km/h, or 268 miles per hour.  Although, the Shanghai Maglev is not the most frequently used train in the country due to it’s short service line and high ticket prices.  Many other train systems connect cities and villages in China utilizing more land-laid rail than any other country on Earth, approximately 2,361 miles worth.

Florida HSR Rendering courtesy inhabitat.com

At long last the United States of America will join Austria, China, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and The United Kingdom as a nation with high speed rail transportation services.  Though, by comparison, it is half a century late – all things are better late than never.

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