I have some thoughts about transportation. I suspect that some will consider my ideas unrealistic or too costly.
For that reason, I intend to begin my proposal with a quotation from George Bernard Shaw “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”
Shaw was quoted by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 in an address to the Irish parliament. The same sentiment was shared by Robert Kennedy in his 1968 presidential campaign. “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” His younger brother, Edward, echoed that query in Robert’s eulogy later that year.
Each of these men were visionaries. The thread that connected them with each other and with visionaries across time and space is the refusal to accept the reality of what is, and to, as Cervantes so poetically expressed it “To reach the unreachable star.”
I was fortunate to be born into a nation founded on principles that included the voice of the people in government, of the equality of every person from birth endowed by the act of creation, and of the responsibility of government to guarantee those rights. What good is an inalienable right that is beyond the reach of the individual?
We have risen to the challenge numerous times when the potential for greatness presented itself. Just a few examples are:
Grand Coulee Dam
Farragut Naval Base
Tennessee Valley Authority
The Interstate Highway System
I was raised with the understanding that nothing, except refusal to accept our shared desire for excellence, could hinder our progress. I was at the site of Grand Coulee Dam in Central Washington near the time of its inception. The families that had gathered there from my hometown of Hagerman, Idaho came out of desperation during the years of the great depression. During the era of the Grand Coulee experience, they shared everything, which made them communalists. Since I was an infant, I have no direct recollection of the events. My understandings are based on the stories I have been told over the years. I suppose that I should record those stories for posterity, as I am one of the few remaining participants in that communal period.
That being an aside, let me move on to the main point. Americans came from all over in response to their government’s call to put their collective shoulders to the wheel and to restore the vibrant economy of this nation. My father took on work as a “high scaler,” perhaps one of the most dangerous jobs in history. If you want to get a description of what that entails, google the term.
My point is that our nation came together, both government and governed, to impose our collective will on the problem at hand. The result is electricity for most rural households in the country.
In 1941, my family was living a relatively comfortable working-class existence in Enumclaw, Washington where my father was building on Mud Mountain Dam. Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our nation came together again to meet the challenge of a national emergency. We moved to Athol, Idaho where we lived for a time in a tent house while permanent housing was being built at Farragut Naval Base on Lake Pend Oreille. The base was built with astonishing speed, a tribute to the American spirit at work.
I believe that same spirit still exists among my fellow Americans. Now is the time for us to come together. We have the vision and foresight to construct a transportation system for the present and to continue to dream of possibilities for the future.
I envision an addition to the transportation system of the United States that would make significant improvement in the way we travel and the way we distribute resources. I would begin with a network of high-speed rail lines across the nation one hundred miles apart (as nearly as possible) both east to west and north to south.
I further envision both freight terminals complete with distribution warehouses and passenger terminals at the connection points.
I envision a fleet of small trucks designed to carry merchandise and produce to end point of delivery destinations. I would also allow for a fleet of rental cars at each terminal to meet the needs of rail travelers. With terminals intersecting at 100-mile intervals, all freight and passenger traffic would be within 70 miles (as the crow flies) of any destination.
What, one might ask, benefits would accrue from such a monumental project? I would begin by pointing out the few that come quickly to my mind:
- Truckers would now be driving for delivery from terminus points to delivery destinations in smaller trucks during daylight hours for fewer miles allowing them home time.
- Wear and tear on existing highways would be significantly reduced along with the cost of upkeep and repair.
- The delight of rail travel would be restored.
- I believe the delivery cost of goods would decrease, although I must leave that calculation in the hands of others more knowledgeable about the relative costs involved.
- Safe travel during periods of inclement weather would be increased.
I also think that such an arrangement would allow for research on the application of alternative forms of energy. Here again, I yield to the expertise of those more conversant in the field of electrical engineering.
From a personal point of view, I would really like to be able drive my own vehicle from my home to junction point, board a high-speed rail car, travel in comfort to a terminal close to my destination of choice, rent a car to make the short drive to my destination or ride a bus rested and ready for whatever awaited my pleasure.