President Obama laid out a plan for a high-speed rail system in the United States, and said the nation needs to think big in order to catch up to other countries and create a modern transportation system.
“Make no little plans. That's what Daniel Burnham said in Chicago,” Obama said, referencing the American architect who designed the “Plan of Chicago” in the early 20th century. “I believe that about America. Make no little plans. So let's get to work.”
The president noted that countries like France, Spain and China all have far more advanced rail systems and there is no reason the United States should lag behind.
“This is America. There's no reason why the future of travel should lie somewhere else, beyond our borders,” Obama said. “Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already over-burdened aviation system, and everybody stands to benefit."
Obama was joined by Vice President “Amtrak Joe” Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Obama said that the nation needs a “smart transportation system” that fits the 21st century, “a system that reduces travel times and increases mobility, a system that reduces congestion and boosts productivity, a system that reduces destructive emissions and creates jobs.”
Already, $8 billion from the stimulus plan has been dedicated to this initiative and the president has requested another $5 billion over the next five years. The Department of Transportation will begin distributing funds to projects before the end of this summer.
To the critics who may say that this plan is too ambitious in these troubling economic times, Obama said that history has shown that times of crisis can provide opportunities for progress, citing Lincoln building the railroads during the Civil War.
Obama cited several ways this initiative can stimulate economic growth: job creation from the development of existing infrastructure; shrinking the distance between regions and cities to encourage urban and rural growth; cleaner energy and a cleaner environment.
“We know that this is going to be a long-term project. But us getting started now, us moving the process forward, getting people to imagine what's possible and putting resources behind it, so that people can start seeing examples of this, around the country, that's going to spur all kinds of activity,” he said.
-- Karen Travers