Yesterday, addressing the nation after the Labor Department's vastly disappointing employment report President Obama called for a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would put millions back to work.
Some things change. Some stay the same. Train time today on Amtrak Service from New York to Chicago is 16 hours. On board at Penn Station at 3:45PM. Arrival Union Station Chicago at 9:45 AM, Chicago time. Not much different than it was in the 1940s, when air travel was rare.
While the world speeds ahead rapidly developing high-speed rail systems, we continue to travel in the caboose. We have stimulus programs, but to date little to show for it. No major project to grasp the nation's imagination and lift its spirits. Even the promised jobs are lacking. At least the New Deal gave us the Hoover Dam (then the largest in the world) the Tennessee Valley Authority, electrifying a part of the nation and bringing it out of deep depression.
On June 30th, the Beijing to Shanghai high-speed rail service was inaugurated. Traveling at 200 miles per hour to be increased to 220 mph after an initial shake-down period. The line was completed nearly a year ahead of schedule
China's ambitions for its rail network is vast. According to the New York Times,
Work crews of as many as 100,000 people per line have built about half the 10,000 mile network in just six years, in many cases ahead of schedule... Often overlooked... are the very real economic benefits that the world's most advanced fast rail system is bringing to China -- and the competitive challenges it poses for the United States and Europe... Real Estate prices and investment have surged in the more than 200 inland cities that have already been connected by high speed rail in the last three years.
According to the Green Bay Progressive, the Shanghai-Beijing route is very comparable to that of Chicago-New York: "The strikingly similar population densities along the similar length routes makes one wonder: Why haven't we done this yet???"
As with the rest of the country unemployment in Chicago is of grave concern. The area around Chicago has lost vast swaths of manufacturing capacity. The building of high-speed rail New York to Chicago would put thousands upon thousands to work and be a major boon to its economy and much in between, not to speak of alleviating traffic congestion and air pollution. Consider, at 220 mph you could travel the some 1000 miles (plus/minus depending on routes selected) between the two cities in the early afternoon and be in time for dinner in the heart of either city, in 4 ½ hours-of what now takes an overnight trip of 16 hours.