25 December 2008

Santa Grande Vitesse

How does he do it? Rudolph's red nose notwithstanding, even Santa Claus must get grounded by bad weather once in a while. So how does he manage to get to all those homes on a single snowy night?

In France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China the answer is simple - Santa takes the train. That's because all of those countries have high speed railroads - trains with top speeds of 175 mph or greater. France's TGV broke the speed record last year for a train running on conventional rails - 356 mph!

The fastest train in the US, Amtrak's Acela Express, tops out at just 150 mph - and the twists and turns of the Northeast Corridor rail line mean that the average speed for a trip from Boston to Washington is much less than that.

So why can't we have some of those fast trains here? U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters recently asked for proposals for a new high speed rail line between New York and Washington D.C. Unlike the Acela project, which was designed to run over existing tracks on a route that was laid out in the 19th century, a new high speed line would need an entirely new route - eliminating curves and grade crossings - and a completely new infrastructure.

And of course, it would have to pass through New Jersey, preferably avoiding the urban areas in favor of the open spaces in the western part of our state.

Uh oh!

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