MADRID - Spain's bullet train system is a model to follow as America plans how to spend transportation stimulus money, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday.
LaHood said the $8 billion allocated for high-speed railways in the United States would spur economic growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
President Obama has cited Spain, France, and Japan as countries with systems worth emulating.
The Spanish network is likely to interest the U.S. government because its specially designed, electrified tracks - first devised for the French TGV system - are not as expensive to lay and run as some German or Japanese alternatives.
And Spanish state-of-the-art tunneling technology has proved successful in boring efficiently through mountain ranges to reach the cities of Valladolid and Malaga.
LaHood met with Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to discuss how investing in such a train system could stimulate U.S. job creation.
"Yesterday I traveled on a train at close to 350 kilometers [215 miles] per hour, the fastest I've ever ridden on a high-speed train," LaHood said. He said he had enjoyed a conversation and beverage on board and found the experience very civilized.
Of $787 billion approved in Obama's stimulus bill, $48 billion is destined to improving overall transport infrastructure, with rail receiving for the first time an important share, LaHood said.
He said that by the end of the summer, Americans would be working in well-paying jobs building high-speed rail links in the U.S.
The secretary said he was scheduled to meet with Vice President Biden this week in Washington to decide how best to spend the $8 billion allotted to high-speed rail. He said there would be "an early infusion of money to get things going."