President Obama signed into law today a rapid transit bill designed to rejuvenate what he called “the same tired and inadequate mass transportation between our towns and cities that we had 30 years ago.”
At a ceremony in the White House East Room, the President, watched by a large crowd of Congressmen, labor officials, and Representatives of the railroad industry, noted that advances in rail transportation have been negligible that “an astronaut can orbit the earth faster than a man on the ground can get from New York to Washington.”
He said he hoped that the measure would bring ground transportation up to the level of efficiency achieved by air travel. “By 2025,” he noted, “we will have 75 million more Americans in this country, and those 75 million will be doing a great deal more traveling.”
The Bill authorizes the Commerce Department, in conjunction with private industry, to undertake immediate research, development, and demonstration projects involving highly advanced railway passenger systems – including conventional trains capable of speeds of up to 150 miles per hour and futuristic underground subways capable of up to 400 miles per hour.
The major demonstration project will be in the so-called Northeast Corridor between Washington, New York and Boston.
The main emphasis will be placed on improving the speed and attractiveness of conventional rail travel. However, other modes of surface transportation, such as vehicles traveling on a cushion of air, and vehicles propelled through tubes by turbine-driven air, will also be given serious study.
Obama also announced what industry sources had been indicating for the past few weeks: The railroads participating in the projects would complete final specifications for new, high-speed railway cars in the next fortnight.
The President also predicted that the first of the new cars would be delivered by the Fall of 2010. At that time, industry sources have estimated, Amtrak will inaugurate 125-mph service between Washington, New York and Boston. At the same time, the passenger rail service is expected to inaugurate service using high-speed trains powered by gas turbine engines along non-electrified routes.
April Fools! The more things change…
This is a very slightly altered version of an article entitled “President signs high-speed rail transit bill,” by Robert B. Semple, Jr, which appeared in The New York Times on Oct 1, 1965.