Tennessee needs to think about high-speed rail

Friday, October 29, 2004 at 1:00am

A vote in Florida next week over whether to invest public money in high speed train transportation could reverberate in Tennessee in the coming years.

In Florida, voters will decide whether to move forward with a $40 billion high-speed rail system that would connect the state's largest cities.

A similar system is in the planning stages in California, where high-speed trains will connect San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The cost is an estimated $37 billion. Voters were to decide next week whether to fund the first leg of the project, but the vote was put off until 2006.

Both states obviously have at least one thing in common - a projected high rate of growth that will tax roadways and increase pollution.

Where does Tennessee come in? In all probability, we will be one of those high-growth states in the next few decades and our roads won't be able to handle the increased capacity of traffic.

Already studies have projected the state can't widen roads enough to accommodate a projected increase in truck traffic. The U.S. Department of Transportation says Tennessee has one of the busiest truck traffic flows in the nation.

The state Department of Transportation is studying Tennessee's burgeoning truck traffic as part of a larger long-range transportation plan.

And a fledgling commuter rail is being built between Nashville and Lebanon.

But the day is not far off when high-speed rail will seem logical rather than futuristic, especially in interstate corridors where traffic is already almost at a standstill during certain times of the day. Imagine what a nice commute it would be from Murfreesboro to Nashville on a high-speed train?

Tennesseans love their cars and even the idea of commuter rail is an untried concept at this point.

In Nashville, building a high-speed rail would probably have to be done above ground. The CSX lines are already almost at capacity and building rail above ground would have the least impact on existing land.

Florida and California are thinking ahead in investing in high-speed rail. It should be on our radar as well.

Filed under: City Voices