California's high-speed rail project is on the right track

Friday, January 14, 2011; 9:20 PM

The Jan. 12 editorial "Hit the brakes," criticizing California's high-speed rail plan, was shortsighted and parochial. If President Dwight D. Eisenhower had waited until he had all the cash on hand, all the lines drawn on a map and all the naysayers on board, America wouldn't have an interstate highway system. We stand at a similar crossroads today when it comes to high-speed rail.

Because of the leadership of President Obama, our children and grandchildren will benefit from a high-speed rail system that connects 80 percent of Americans and keeps us competitive with other leading nations. High-speed rail will revitalize America's manufacturing sector, spur economic development and create green, high-wage jobs for tens of thousands.

The people of California understand this, which is why they approved a nearly $10 billion bond measure to build a high-speed rail system in their state. The Obama administration is proud to support California's pioneering plan with a $3.6 billion investment that will jump-start the project by funding the first section of the corridor ready to be built, in the Central Valley.

The Post creates a false choice between the Central Valley and other sections of the project that are not ready for construction. The Central Valley segment will connect to existing rail service at both ends of the line, improving passenger service even before other sections of high-speed rail are built. And, perhaps most important, the project will put Californians back to work.

The administration has also invested billions of dollars in other promising high-speed rail corridors across America, including $1.7 billion for the Northeast Corridor. Focusing the total sum of our federal dollars in one project, as The Post suggests, is a poor strategy that will not serve our long-term goal of creating a national high-speed rail network.

Ray LaHood, Washington

The writer is U.S. secretary of transportation.

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