Japan’s high-speed rail system with its bullet trains has been the envy of Amtrak for many years. And for years Amtrak has been lobbying Congress here in the United States to fund high-speed rail. Bullet trains run on electrified magnetic rails that are environmentally clean and efficient. In Japan most of this electricity is produced by nuclear power plants with the hopes that someday an even cleaner more sustainable source of energy will become available.
Imagine what it would be like if we here in America could travel at hundreds of miles an hour as we watched the countryside pass by, having no concern about how much pollution our car or the jet was belching out along the way. What would it take here in the US to make that happen? While you consider that I’m going to change subjects here for a bit.
The West Coast is suffering through one of the worst droughts in our recorded history. It’s been three years since many of the states in the desert southwest and California have had a substantial amount of rain fall. Reservoirs, lakes, and rivers are nearly bone dry. California’s agriculture industry is facing major cutbacks in the amount of water that they desperately need to maintain their farming operations. Millions of dollars in crop losses are happening now with an even darker future in the years ahead if dramatic changes aren’t made soon.
Now you’re probably wondering what high-speed rail and a horrific drought on the west coast have to do with each other. And better still you’re probably wondering how Route 66 fits into all this.
Route 66 is a highway relic from the past. It was built as a roadway connecting the Midwest all the way to California and all points in between giving drivers easy access to places such as Las Vegas, Nevada. In its hay day it was one of the heaviest traveled highways in the country before many more interstates were built as cars became more popular for travel. It starts in Chicago and runs both south and west through the heart of many of those states that are experiencing the worst of drought conditions right now. For the most part Route 66, as a highway, is obsolete and little used by car drivers of today. However, Route 66 has a couple of things going for it when it comes to high-speed rail and the west coast’s current drought situation.
Here in America a hundred years or so ago railroads owned many rights of way when it came to both passenger and commercial rail service across America. Unfortunately, because of the automobile, railroads ended up selling this right of way to interstate highways or more recently to hiking trails and what not. And this is what makes Route 66 so appealing for high-speed rail. The right of ways is already there. There would be no need to disrupt private property or businesses that are already established along that roadway.
As for the persistent droughts in the desert southwest and west coast, in general Route 66 also gives us a route for a future water pipeline from Lake Erie and the Great Lakes all the way to California. Obviously, a massive water pipeline from the world’s largest source of fresh water, the Great Lakes, all the way to the west coast would only be a small piece to a massive problem. California and other states are going to eventually have to invest in massive desalinization plants using ocean water to meet their needs fully.
And as for high-speed rail, Route 66 would be the perfect place to start a passenger only electrified rail system that would eventually encompass the rest of the west coast as well as the east coast and all points in between. Bullet trains in America could be the future of travel if we would just make that investment. And as for our interstate network, many of our interstates were built with large median strips for future highway expansion. How about using these median strips as future high-speed rail lines as we move away from the gas-powered automobile? That would also be a great way to add more charging stations along our interstate networks where these electric trains would run side by side. The final question is, do we have the political will to make these changes happen?