If President Eisenhower had waited until he had all the cash on hand, all the lines drawn on a map, and all the naysayers on board, America would not boast the state-of-the-art interstate highway system we have today.
That’s why I was so disappointed to read the Washington Post’s editorial criticizing California’s high-speed rail plan. Unfortunately, the editorial writers at the Post have taken a shortsighted, parochial approach to our pressing infrastructure needs.
When it comes to high-speed rail, we stand at a moment similar to that in the 1950s when President Eisenhower pressed for a network of American highways. And, if we fail to prepare for the decades ahead by taking similarly innovative steps to add capacity to our infrastructure, we will shortchange future generations and deprive them of the tools they will need to compete in a global economy.
Because of the leadership of President Obama, our children and grandchildren will benefit from a high-speed rail system that connects 80 percent of Americans and keeps us competitive with other leading nations. High-speed rail will revitalize America’s manufacturing sector, spurring economic development and creating green, high-wage jobs for tens of thousands of people.
The people of California understand this, which is why they approved a nearly $10 billion bond measure to build a high-speed rail system in their state. The Obama Administration is proud to support California’s pioneering high-speed rail plan with a corresponding federal investment that will jump-start the project by funding the first section of the corridor ready to be built, which is in the Central Valley.
As Roelof van Ark, chief executive officer of the California High Speed Rail Authority, said, "The Central Valley is the backbone of the future of transportation in the state. We need to connect Southern California and Northern California."
And, perhaps most importantly, the project will put Californians back to work.
In fact, last fall, 30 rail manufacturers and suppliers committed to expanding their base of operations in the U.S. and employing American workers if selected for high-speed rail contracts. Many of our workers are skilled and in need of work. And, a 100 percent Buy America requirement for high-speed rail projects will ensure that our economy and U.S. manufacturers see the maximum economic benefits of our investment.
Now, the Administration has also invested billions of dollars in other promising high-speed rail corridors across America, including the Northeast Corridor. But focusing the total sum of our federal dollars in one project, as the Post suggests, is a poor strategy for creating a national high-speed rail network.
With our population expected to swell by 70 million over the next 25 years, continuing to rely on congested highways and overburdened airports is simply unsustainable and would constrain America’s economic growth.