LaHood: If Eisenhower Had Signed the High-Speed Rail Bill…

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke at Netroots Nation on Thursday, part of a panel discussing transportation policy. The conference in Las Vegas gathers activists and bloggers from the political left, and LaHood was the highest-ranking officials from Obama Administration to participate.

It was an interesting, good panel discussion. The Secretary promoted stimulus spending, federal funding for local public transportation, “livable communities” and high-speed rail. There was little discussion of bicycling, but boy, lots of talk about high-speed rail.

The most startling comment from the Secretary was his suggestion that President Obama’s vision is for America to be more like Asia or Europe. From the context, he was saying that the United States should embrace more mass transportation akin to the systems of the densely populated areas of Western Europe and Asia, but still…

From the Q&A, discussing how to get people out of cars, Secretary LaHood:

I think the way we really get more opportunities for people other than automobiles is what we’re doing with our high-speed intercity rail. You mentioned the fact that the district that I once represented, 20 counties in central and west-central Illinois is primarily rural, so people have to have automobiles in order to get back and forth to school and to work and to recreate. The day will come, though, and if you look at our high-speed intercity rail plan, as I mentioned before, over the next 25 years with the right investment, 80 percent of America will be connected. Think of how many people will be out of their cars and on a train going to visit grandma, or going to work. There will be intercity connections but there will also be big-city connections, too.

The example that I use is that, think of if President Eisenhower would have signed the high-speed intercity rail bill, where would our investments had been made? We would be like Europe and Asia. That’s the kind of vision that President Obama and Vice President Biden have for America.

Look it …Americans like their automobiles, we all know that. One of the reasons they like ‘em, is because it is in some places in the country the only form of transportation, particularly in rural America. But the plan that we have will connect America, and I think Americans will get in the habit, if we provide comfortable train service at affordable cost, a lot of people will use it. We’ve proved that they’ll do it on the Northeast corridor. Think of all the people who are not in cars when they’re riding from Washington to New York or Boston on the train.

So, I encourage you to go on our website and look at our high-speed intercity rail plan. It’s a very good plan. I think it will connect America and take a lot of cars off the road.

We have an audio clip here with the above segment and a few more of the Secretary’s comments on rail and federal spending on high-speed rail. The interlocutor is David Alpert of GreaterGreaterWashington.

Judging by the panelists and the questions, the progressive left has no interest in the efficient movement of freight. Secretary LaHood mentioned freight only in the context of the commercial railroads reaching agreements on track access so high-speed rail projects can move forward

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