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High speed rail for the 21st century

In a strategic national security move and a recognition of a new traveling American public, President Dwight Eisenhower launched the Interstate highway system. The nation was to be connected by fast, four-lane divided highway to ensure safe, efficient and timely transportation corridors from one end of the nation to the other.

Now, in the 21st century, we must think of new transportation methods to connect us from one coast to the other cheaply and efficiently, limiting the use of foreign oil.

President Barack Obama on Thursday announced his strategic plan for high-speed rail, which could become a key component for new century transportation.

"My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come," said President Obama. "A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve. High-speed rail is long-overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways."

His strategic plan outlines high-speed rail corridors. Chicago would serve as a hub network, with one high-speed corridor from there to the Twin Cities. The federal economic stimulus package includes $8 billion to invest in high-speed rail, plus $1 billion a year for five years in the president's 2010 budget.

"Minnesota must have a forward-looking transportation policy - one that gives people choices, gets them out of rush-hour traffic and reduces congestion on our roads. High-speed rail to Chicago is an important step toward a broader transportation and energy strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign fuels and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and create new jobs and businesses," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said Thursday. "Projects like this can help boost the economy in the short-term while positioning Minnesota's economy for success in the long-term."

The president's plan also calls for making train service along existing rail lines incrementally faster, which would aid the rail line from the Twin Cities to the Northwest traveling through our state.

Rail transportation thrived in the 1800s before the advent of the "horseless carriage." Perhaps it is time to return to the rails for a better, safer, more energy-efficient mode of transportation. But with 21st century innovations.

Japan and Europe are far ahead of us in the development of high-speed rail, and it is time to retool our industries to follow in their footsteps. -- Bemidji Pioneer