Efficient high-speed rail networks are already staple of many European and Asian countries. President Obama outlined an ambitious plan today to bring the United States up to speed–literally. It won’t be cheap. Obama wants to use $8 billion from his stimulus package for the project, followed by $1 billion per year for five years from the federal budget. But the project is vast, with ten potential high-speed rail corridors in the works: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub
Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston, the only U.S. high-speed rail network already in existence, will have the chance to compete for funds.
Obama envisions two types of rail service: express and regional. Express lines will travel 150 mph between major population centers that are 200-600 miles apart, while regional lines will move at 110-150 mph between population centers that are 100-500 miles apart.
As you might imagine, companies are already jumping in to lend a helping hand with the rail network. IBM released a new study in conjunction with Obama’s announcement entitled “The Smarter Railroad.” In the study, IBM highlights its experience with smart transportation initiatives around the world. Hint, hint, U.S. government.
If Obama pulls off his plan, expect thousands of new jobs, minimized highway congestion, and an annual reduction of 6 billion pounds of CO2. And of course, lots of railroad-happy tourists.
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