Friday's New York Times examined China's economic stimulus plans which are heavy on high speed rail:
China is already two months into its effort. And while Democrats have put aside calls for big transportation projects, with the House bill allocating less than 5 percent of spending for the construction of highways, rail lines and mass transit programs, China is furiously pouring concrete and laying rails.
A $17.6 billion passenger rail line across the deserts of northwest China, a $22 billion web of freight rail lines in Shanxi province in north-central China and a $24 billion high-speed passenger rail line from Beijing to Guangzhou here in southeastern China are among the biggest projects. But extra spending is being planned in practically every town, city and county across the country....
China has already built as many miles of high-speed passenger rail lines in the last four years as Europe has in two decades. A new bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin, opened last summer, travels at up to 217 miles an hour; the top speed of Amtrak’s Acela Express trains in the Northeastern United States is 150 m.p.h., and it is only briefly attained.
The government has nearly finished the construction of a high-speed rail route from Beijing to Shanghai at a cost of $23.5 billion — almost equal to the price of the entire Three Gorges hydroelectric dam project on the Yangtze River. The authorities recently disclosed that they had 110,000 workers laboring to finish the route as quickly as possible.
China's economy, which saw rapid growth over the last 15 years as Americans consumed virtually anything China produced, is hitting the wall, and the government hopes that HSR will provide not just jobs, but seed long-term economic growth and make the country less dependent on energy imports.
Meanwhile, what are we doing here in the US? Stiffing high speed rail and other forms of mass transit so Obama can try in vain to win Republican votes by offering wasteful and inefficient tax cuts.
This blog has consistently argued for including significant HSR spending in the stimulus. Obama seems pretty strongly opposed to doing so, for reasons only he can explain. But we have an opportunity to push back against the failed policies of the past and strike a blow for mass transit.
Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio is angry that Obama has excluded mass transit funding in the stimulus - and has decided to do something about it. DeFazio is offering an amendment to increase rail funding in the stimulus by $2 billion. It's not remotely enough - it should be at least a $15 billion increase - but at this point it's the politics that matter. A successful amendment will show that there is public and Congressional support for passenger rail funding. It will help beat back ridiculous Republican claims that such spending is "pork" and make it easier to pass HSR funding later in the year.
The DeFazio amendment will first be heard by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. That is where our lobbying efforts need to be directed for now. California has three members of this committee (click their names to send an email):
David Dreier - Republican from 26th District (San Gabriel Valley foothills). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-2305, San Dimas office (909) 575-6226, Toll-free (888) 906-2626
Doris Matsui - Democrat from 5th District (Sacramento). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-7163, Sacramento office (916) 498-5600
Dennis Cardoza - Democrat from 18th District (Stockton, Modesto, Merced). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-6131 or (800) 356-6424, Merced office (209) 383-4455, Modesto office (209) 527-1914, Stockton office (209) 946-0361.
Contact them and tell them to vote FOR the DeFazio amendment. We will then let you know when and how to contact your member of Congress when the amendment goes to the floor.
More from DeFazio and policy geek Rachel Maddow on the stimulus:
UPDATE: Transportation for America has more information on the DeFazio amendment and the need to stop massive cutbacks in transit service across the country. Again, this is not HSR-specific, but a political victory here makes it easier for us to get HSR properly funded later in 2009. They are suggesting folks call House Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter.
For those curious about talking points with the California representatives, note that for HSR to be successful, there must be robust transit connections at each HSR station. Cutbacks that transit agencies are currently facing will have a difficult time being restored in the future, and will hurt the development of a transit network around HSR stations.