President Barack Obama is calling for the country to move swiftly to a system of high-speed rail travel, saying it will relieve congestion, help clean the air and save on energy.
Appearing with Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Thursday, Obama said the country cannot afford not to invest in a major upgrade to rail travel. He said he understands it necessarily will be "a long-term project" but said the time to start is now.
Obama said that "this is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It's happening now. The problem is, it's happening elsewhere." He cited superior high-speed rail travel in countries like China, Japan, France and Spain.
Obama said the rail upgrades are critically needed because the nation's highways and airways "are clogged with traffic."