Interstate rail is OK, planned cities are better

Apparently a number of Republican gubernatorial candidates have stated they would reject federal funding intended to establish high speed inter-city rail lines in the U.S. according to Grist. They claim the money should be used to repair existing roads and worry about cost of upkeep to the states after such rail lines are built.

First off, if state and federal governments were planning in a responsible fashion, shouldn’t there be money to repair roads already allocated in an existing fund (not that I actually believe they are planning in such a way, but they should be)? Secondly, in theory rail will lighten the load on interstates meaning there won’t be as much money needed to maintain the roadways.

The article, which starts with a quote by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — also a Republican — found on Twitter, also includes some interesting words from a LaHood blog entry:

We’re talking about nothing short of transforming transportation much the same way the interstate highway system did under President Eisenhower. Can you imagine if Ohio or Wisconsin or any other state had said, “No, thanks — we don’t think that highway thing is going anywhere?”

If you think the United States can afford not to compete with the European and Asian nations who have embraced high-speed rail and other innovative infrastructure . . .

While I’m all for more public transportation options — I’d gladly take the train to the in-laws for Christmas if I could, making that trip so much more productive than being behind the wheel on that seven hour drive — competing with Europe or Asia is an irrelevant point when it comes to interstate rail. Not applying a potentially useful technology in the context of our own country is silly, assuming we can come up with the funding in a responsible manner, but the context is key here. Just because something is good for other countries doesn’t make it good for America.

And as much as I’d like a high-speed interstate rail system in the United States, I’m personally more interested in seeing time and money invested in transforming our addicted-to-automobile communities. Travel via interstate is a much more logical use of a car than in town anyway, where we could actually be walking or biking to the grocery store and post office if we planned our communities in a way that was not wholly auto-centric.

Adding: Why can’t high-speed rail be a private venture?


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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