President Barack Obama wants the United States to join other
industrialized countries in having an extensive high-speed rail system.
The president has unveiled his plan to accelerate the development of
high-speed rail in the U.S.
President Obama says high-speed rail could do for America what it is already doing for other countries, including China and Spain.
"A high-speed line between Madrid and Seville is so successful that more people travel between those cities by rail than by car and airplane combined. China, where service began just two years ago, may have more miles of high-speed rail service than any other country just five years from now," he said.
High-speed rail only serves America's Northeast corridor, between Washington, D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts. But plans are under way to extend the rapid transit to other areas of the country.
Before leaving for Latin America, Mr. Obama outlined his two-part strategy for accelerating those plans.
"Improving our existing rail lines, to make current train service faster, but also identifying potential corridors for the creation of world-class high-speed rail," he said.
Congress included $8 billion for rail development in the economic stimulus legislation it passed in February. Mr. Obama is including another $5 billion for high-speed rail in his federal budget.
High-speed rail has had mixed political support in the past. But President Obama says it could strengthen the U.S. economy, in addition to improving the country's transportation system. He says the United States should not be left behind while other nations are moving ahead with high-speed rail.
"So it is being done. It is just not being done here. There is no reason why we cannot do this. This is America. There is no reason why the future of travel should lie somewhere else, beyond our borders," he said.
The president was joined at the announcement by Vice President Joe Biden, who, in 35 years as a U.S. Senator, is estimated to have taken almost 8,000 rail trips between Washington and his home in Wilmington, Delaware.