Lent Carr- Freelance Journalist/Writer
Raleigh– Crippled by economic depression and environmental catastrophe, the American dream seems to be dead in the water. And with peak oil hot on its hyperconsuming heels, America is looking for solutions, and it may have found a good one in the form of an ambitious national high-speed rail network that would connect its metropoles and mid-size cities together in green solidarity. Better late than never.
In the ’20s, the American way of life looked just like Paris. Everyone was living in big cities, riding street trains, no one had cars. But the oil and auto industries, working hand-in-hand with the government, converted the country away from that system. America wasn’t born with the system we enjoy off and on now (depending on where gas prices are). So the American dream as we know it is somewhat of a myth.
From 1945 forward, we built a different America based on sprawl. But the days of plentiful cheap oil are over, so whether we want to change or not, we will be forced to. And America is going to have a tough time adjusting. Or will it? It will be much easier to adjust to the unimaginable economic and environmental crunches coming our way if we launched that system before peak oil smacks us upside the head as early as 2015, according to a recent report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command. And that’s being generous; some would argue that we’ve been experiencing peak oil’s birth pangs for over a decade.
Right now, U.S. High-Speed Rail Association (USHSRA’s) projected rail network envisions functional regional high-speed networks from the rich soiled boundaries of North Carolina, to the sunny State of California and beyond by 2015, and then a complete national system by 2030. But there’s no time to waste.
Having looked at every angle of this quagmire, I must applaud Governor Beverly Purdue, Mayor Charles Meeker, the State of North Carolina and the sitting Raleigh City Council for their keen vision for the transportation future of our tomorrow. If everyone sat down and took a good look at what the military’s report means for our nation and its economy, they’d be in emergency mode, searching for a transportation infrastructure no longer dependent on oil. A national and local rail system powered by electricity, wind and solar is going to be the only thing that will make a massive difference. Think about it; we could have green transportation forever. But before America and Raleigh, North Carolina can work its way toward that sustainable transportation future, it has to pull some thick-headed anachronists out of the past.
After the 2010 midterm elections ushered new politicians into the volatile electoral mix, two incoming Republican governors — Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich, respectively — killed their state’s high-speed rail projects, and the millions of dollars and thousands of jobs that went along with them. The same lame scenario is playing out right now in Florida, whose governor-elect Rick Scott is jeopardizing billions of stimulus dollars and much-needed jobs for no good reason, despite the fact that his state is the closest to making high-speed rail a sustainable reality.
As a state and city, North Carolina and Raleigh is further along, in terms of having a comprehensive plan. But when it comes to shovel-ready projects, Florida is further along. That project is basically ready to go out to bid. The hold-up is the new governor.
That’s why as a 2011 City Council Candidate for Raleigh City Council, I believe that our vast citizenry must get behind our Governor, Mayor and City Council Officials so as to ensure no further and needless political dichotomy on this critical issue. As we can see, North Carolina is one of the more fortunate States to have so far escaped these unwarranted setbacks. But for how long?
Despite these politicized setbacks, U.S. high-speed rail is attracting attention and potential investment from China and Japan, as well as multinational corporations looking to take an A-train to increased ridership and the profits it will bring. But until Florida gets its proverbial rear-end in gear, other States i.e., North Carolina and California will be leaving everyone else in the dust.
The Case For Mayor Meeker & Raleigh’s City Council–
With one progressive eye on alternative energy and another on rebooting the city’s sagging employment, the City of Raleigh’s Resolution approval as to the proposed route for a regional transit system through Raleigh’s sprawling high-speed rail project is geared to blaze hundreds of green miles to a post-peak oil future. But it’s also taking dumb shots from compromised contrarians, while trying to connect the city’s swollen out-dated metropoles, and some of its smaller transportation amenities, in hopes of providing Raleigh’s citizenry a more productive and less toxic transportation atmosphere. To their credit, Raleigh City Council has held firm. And I energetically support them on this initiative. Although I believe a little further re-tweaking will make it even better.
The council backed a plan to run commuter rail service from the vicinity of Triangle Town Center in northeast Raleigh through downtown and on to northwest Cary, using existing CSX rail lines. The council also approved further study by Triangle Transit of a commuter rail corridor between the Wake-Johnston county line and Durham.
Needless to say, if elected, the present Council will have a strong advocate and friend for this futuristic project in Lent Carr. As I ascribe to the notion that we as Americans must find an alternative to oil and other pollutants which threatens our economic growth, health and way of life; thereby moving as the time dictates…to the future of green energy. To do otherwise would be detriment to our existence as we know it.