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By Juleyka Lantigua

It’s time for the U.S. to build a national bullet train network.

High-speed railway systems have enormous economic, social and environmental benefits that have contributed to the economic growth and quality of life of many countries for decades. The networks are commonplace in Japan, France, Germany, Italy, England and many other countries.

The oldest and most famous bullet trains are part of Japan’s Shinkansen system, which created the innovative transportation technology. The most glamorized bullet train is the Chunnel train, which takes passengers from London to Paris in two hours and fifteen minutes.

I have travelled on both the Shinkansen and the Chunnel, and have seen first-hand how valuable, convenient and efficient those systems are. Here at home, Florida and California are leading the way with fully conceived proposals for statewide bullet train networks.

The California system would stretch from San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento in the north through the Central Valley to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. The 380-mile journey between San Francisco to Los Angeles would take just 2.5 hours (compare to 6 hours by car).

Economically, a coast-to-coast high-speed rail network would mean hundreds of thousands of construction and new permanent full-time jobs. In California alone, planners estimate creating nearly 160,000 construction-related jobs to plan, design and build the system, with an additional 450,000 permanent jobs by 2035. Overall, the state anticipates more than $1 billion in annual revenue from the rail system.

With the system in place, the ability to travel between major cities at reduced costs while avoiding the hassles of getting to and waiting at airports, will enable professionals and businesses to expand their reach regionally and nationally. Families will also once again afford to travel for vacations and holidays without enduring countless hours in crammed vehicles or the expense and inconvenience of group air travel.

Bullet trains significantly improve the environmental impact transportation has on the planet. These trains, some of which can carry more than 1,300 passengers, will remove hundreds of thousands of cars per year from highways, thereby reducing the toxins cars release into the air.

A single lane of rail has the equivalent capacity of six lanes of highway. California officials project that building a network in their state will save 12.7 million barrels of oil per year, reducing the CO2 emissions by 12 billion pounds per year by 2030.

“A first-rate rail system would protect our environment, save families time and money, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again,” Senator John Kerry said recently while announcing the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008, a bill he has co-sponsored that funds a national network of connected high speed train systems.

The Federal Rail Administration has already designated ten rail corridors, including plans to connect cities in the Midwest, the Northwest, major cities within Texas and Florida, and cities along the East Coast.

President-Elect Barack Obama recently said that “the choices that we make will help determine the type of country and world we leave to our children and grandchildren.” Establishing a national high-speed passenger train service will go a long way to enriching that legacy.

"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit:"

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