With his vigorous support for high-speed rail, President Obama is thinking about a better future. And so is the Department of Transportation. We’re moving America forward for all Americans.
The bottom line is that high-speed rail will deliver a more efficient downtown-to-downtown mobility; it will spur economic development; it will bring manufacturing jobs to the US; and it will move us to a cleaner, greener way of getting around.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out even more grants to help write the next chapter in American innovation.
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?"
The fact is that – as with much of the Recovery Act – I keep hearing objections being expressed in the media while at the same time my office phone is ringing off the hook with calls from elected officials of both parties competing feverishly for a rail corridor in their state! I’ve never heard from anyone saying, "Don’t put my constituents to work."
Look, the people vowing to send this train back to the station are missing the boat, so to speak. High-speed rail will offer states incredible economic opportunities. It means jobs for workers, it means manufacturing opportunities and it means economic development corridors.
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, I urge you to read "Investing in our Economic Future," by Dr. T. Peter Ruane, or "Well Within Reach: America’s New Transportation Agenda," by the David R. Goode National Transportation Policy Conference. Both of these reports tell the same story: We cannot delay mustering the courage to build a 21st century foundation for our 21st century economy.
Neither President Obama nor I will be content to sit around and watch other countries maintain a transportation advantage over us.
We know there are dozens of companies that want to build plants and hire American workers. We have already received commitments from over 30 companies in the rail business to create or expand U.S. rail manufacturing should they be awarded contracts for portions of this money. These companies know high-speed rail, and they are ready to become partners to the states or regions awarded rail grants.
Will we say, "No," to the future – to jobs and growth?
Just like the interstate highway system, the wired telephone has been a fantastic springboard to American economic strength. But that didn’t stop the communications companies from embracing the innovation offered by wireless. And look at what that investment has made possible.
We will always use our roadways; they continue to serve us well, and DOT is not about to turn our backs on them. But now is the time to invest in the next technological wave in transportation and leverage it toward a better future for all of us.
Ray LaHood is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.