Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why Red States Should Support High-Speed Rail

High-speed rail is being pushed by the Obama administration as vital to the future of the U.S., but is being opposed by conservative Republicans as an expensive "tax and spend" idea. The conservatives may want to think twice before dismissing the idea.

In parts of the Northeast and the Midwest, towns and cities are suffering a population drain as people move west and south; rural areas are hard-hit as young people unable to support themselves are moving away from their families to cities or to areas of the country with more opportunity.

High-speed rail could help resolve this problem. An individual living in a small town or on a rural farm could drive 30 minutes to the nearest train station, get on the train and commute 200 miles to a job in a major city, and then reverse the process and be home by supper. Residents of rural areas would no longer be confined to the limited career opportunities in their immediate area, but could easily have access to jobs -- and education, art, music, and culture -- in New York, Boston, Chicago, or L.A., and still enjoy the closeness and community of small-town living.

Small-business owners, artists and designers could commute to cities around the country and promote their services and goods in person. Realtors would have access to a vast new customer base as city dwellers of modest means are able to afford homes in rural areas, while keeping their city jobs. Farm families could have some family members with access to a much-needed big-city income as others maintain the farm.

High-speed rail has a lot to offer rural, red-state America -- perhaps even more than it offers the urban dweller. The Obama administration needs to include rural America in its plans for high-speed rail, and red-state Republicans need to get on board.

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