Infrastructure Is Good
Current Transit Debate Hearkens Back to 1950s
Infrastructure is good. Ever complain about the cost of shipping? Consider what shipping would look like without highways. Planning a trip? Try to find a route that does not require the use of interstates--at all. Highways are probably the single most important part of infrastructure in 20th century. However, highways also come with their own set of problems. Congestion, smog, auto dependency, and the cost of time are just a few of the problems with relying on automobiles for both work and pleasure. What is the next step in advancing commerce and travel? High speed rail is the next logical step.
Even highways had their critics in the beginning. Opponents of President Eisenhower asserted that the federal highway act of 1956 was "another ascent into the stratosphere of new deal jitterbug economics" (NationalAtlas.gov). In fact, many of the opposition's arguments against high speed rail are the same as the ones used by opponents of the building of a connected interstate system in the 1950's. Now, it's difficult to imagine traveling, working, or shipping without them. Critics of the interstate project wondered about the need for such a system and the cost of building and maintaining it. However, the result was that it spurred and speeded up the development of commerce and increased the mobility of all Americans.
Opponents of high speed rail also question the need and worry about funding. My answer to them is that investment in high speed rail is the cost of competing in a world economy. Across our country, factories are investing in faster, more efficient, and more reliable tools to increase productivity. High speed rail is a reflection of that forward-thinking mindset as it relates to transportation. Americans and our government need to abandon the "1950's mindset" and adopt a new view that looks toward the future and ensuring America's ability to compete in a global landscape.
Contributed by INHSRA Board Member Thom Davis.