Get high-tech with railroads

While deficit reduction and economic stimulation are urgent, it is important that this is done in a way that does not hinder the solution of other serious problems. Many of these are both transportation and environment-related.

The principal causes of air pollution are our overdependence on fuel-inefficient and environmentally destructive air and highway transportation, while ignoring fuel-efficient and environmentally benign railroads; our dependence on imported oil, with its accompanying war risk; the cash outflow to pay for this oil, which is only aggravated by building more roads; and the cost in money and in environmental damage of constructing more roads and airports.

For years, our transportation policy has promoted air and highway transportation and ignored railroads. This policy must be reversed to get as much passenger and freight traffic as possible back to the railroads. Railroads should be treated like roads; roads do not make a profit and are not expected to, and railroads should be treated the same way. Amtrak must have a dedicated source of capital funding, as do the roads, to avoid the annual need to beg Congress for money to survive another year. An approp riate source of funding would be 1 cent of the federal gasoline tax, dedicated to Amtrak. This is not unfair to road users because it would reduce congestion without requiring construction of more roads.

We must develop high-speed rail passenger service but must keep the rail network intact and not break it up into isolated corridors. The high-speed trains must be like the French TGV or the Swedish X-2000 trains. We must not waste money on magnetic levitation, which is an entirely different technology. John J. Bowman, Lancaster, Pa.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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