Obama's stimulus is banking on high speed rail

In a town hall meeting last week, a member of the audience asked President Obama what could be done to improve America's infrastructure. Touching on numerous issues, the President repeatedly returned to the theme of high speed rail (HSR), noting that an HSR system could solve many of the country's problems, from pollution to transportation to sprawl. Summing up, Obama stated:

I'd like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to invest in mass transit. Because, potentially, that's energy efficient and I think a lot more people are open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure.

The President has made HSR development a key element in his economic stimulus plan, setting aside $8 billion for the initiative, and budgeting a further $1 billion per year for the next five years. In all likelihood, most of this money will go to regional high-speed rail projects, as a widespread revamping of the national rail infrastructure would be expensive and difficult to organize.