It was reported yesterday in the Washington Post that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had sent the White House a "comprehensive memo" on how to jump start high speed rail service (HSR) nationally, identifying several high-speed rail corridors.
The economic recovery bill set aside $8 billion to high-speed rail, thereby becoming an integral part of President Obama's vision for rebuilding America.
Yet, yet, the first draft of the economic recovery bill gave scant attention to high-speed rail. Far down the list of priorities was an item, almost tucked away, allocating $1.1 billion for intercity rail service.
The issue with all its potential for changing the travel landscape of the nation was virtually overlooked in the endless volume of commentary that greeted the stimulus package once it was laid bare for Congressional enactment.
With all the national media tumult surrounding the stimulus plan the issue of high-speed rail was hardly touched upon,and as far as research will allow, with but one exception, the Huffington Post. Two blog posts appeared, bemoaning the lack of focus on this issue and the missed opportunity to create a fundamental change to the nation's travel infrastructure with all its attendant environmental and city planning advantages.
James Glave posted "High Time For High Speed Rail" on February 12, and I posted "The Stimulus Package: Why is Intercity Rail Service at the End of the Line?" shortly after the first draft of the stimulus came out, on February 4.
Cause and effect? Who knows? Certainly high-speed rail was never emphasized by the administration when the House Appropriations Committee was writing its bill in January.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it was the posts on Huffington that made the administration aware that there was a constituency out there calling for our government to take hold and act on this issue. And perhaps here was an example of the new media alone, amongst all the talking heads and scribes, helping to achieve a change of course in government policy.
But whatever the genesis, the important thing is that we have an administration and a president who has the vision and is seizing upon a generational opportunity to improve our infrastructure not simply with cement but in a fundamentally lifestyle enhancing, green and elegant way.