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Obama's high-speed rail plan: Which states get the money?

President Obama announced 13 high-speed rail projects worth $8 billion Thursday. It is an 'important beginning,' advocates say, aimed at several key population centers.

An Amtrak train arrives in St. Louis from Chicago Thursday. Train travel for Missouri residents will get faster after the Obama administration announced grants of $1.1 billion for development of a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis.

Jeff Roberson/AP

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President Obama’s $8 billion plunge into 13 high-speed rail projects nationwide has the potential to become either his “Eisenhower moment” – moving the US into a new phase of transportation modernization – or just a dead end “drop in the bucket.”

The trip from St. Louis to Chicago, for example, could be chopped from 4.5 hours to about 3 hours and 40 minutes. But is that short enough to lessen the load on airports in the two cities and the highways in between?

“It’s a very important beginning," says Howard Learner, whose Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center has been fighting for high-speed rail for 15 years.

He heralds the plan as "a giant step forward in the transformation of our nation’s transportation system." But others note that, to build a national high-speed rail network, the cost would be at least $100 billion.

“It really is only a drop in the bucket of what the nation will need to get the kind of high-speed rail network it needs,” says Jack Schenendorf, who was vice chairman of the a blue-ribbon commission that studied the nation’s transportation needs in a 2008 study. “Obviously, for high speed rail, it is a good development. But it will take a lot more money to get these systems built out.”


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