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Vice President Biden Unveils New $58 Billion High-Speed Rail Proposal

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In a speech given at Philadelphia’s 30th street Amtrak station, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a proposal to invest $53 billion over six years to develop a high-speed rail network in the United States.

Biden compared the proposal to Abraham Lincoln’s call for the erection of a transcontinental railroad during the Civil War.

The plan was seeded in last month’s State of the Union Address, where President Obama proposed the need “to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

“Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do … China is building faster trains and newer airports” Obama said.

Today’s proposal lays out a plan to create a nationwide network of high-speed trains, connecting emerging corridors with regional lines.

Beginning in the 1950, passenger rail in the United States saw declines in overall ridership, unable to compete with the rising popularity of national highways and cheap air travel.

But with rising oil prices, rail travel has seen resurgence in recent years, especially in the heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor.

The latest numbers? Amtrak Reports Rising Ridership In 2010

Amtrak’s Acela Express running from New York to Washington, D.C. and New York to Boston, is leading the push, but the train uses the term “high-speed” liberally.

Japan's Shinkansen Bullet TrainThe Acela averages anywhere between 79 and 90 mph. In comparison, Japan’s famous Shinkansen bullet trains have multiple lines operating at twice these speeds.

China, which now operates the largest network of high-speed rail, has trains like the Shanghai Maglev Train, which averages 152 mph and reaches a top speed of 268 mph.

The primary issue is that passenger trains in the United States share the tracks with freight trains and this limits their top speeds.

The new proposal would lay new tracks, equivalent of 1,900 miles of highway, designed to support trains traveling at speeds of 220 mph, over the next 25 years.

An initial investment of $8 billion is expected to be included in the upcoming federal budget proposal, which is in addition to the $10.5 billion already allocated in 2009 and 2010.

By Fernando Padilla for Peter Greenberg.com.

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