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Joe Biden speaks at 30th street train station with Mayor Nutter and transportation secretary Ray LaHood to announce federal funding for high speed rail Credit: Megan Falls

Amidst rumbling trains and bustling passengers at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled an extensive plan to implement a dominant high-speed rail network in the United States Tuesday morning.

While train departures and arrivals were announced in the background, Biden — a Delaware senator for 36 years before becoming vice president — quipped, “I’m like Pavlov’s dog. If I hear the announcement ‘Southbound to Wilmington,’ I may leave.”

Biden, who was accompanied by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, pitched the $53 billion plan as one that is necessary to remain competitive with countries such as France, Spain and Japan that already have highly developed cross-country transportation systems.

“If we sit back, a lot of other folks are going to eat our lunch,” Biden said.

School of Design Dean Marilyn Taylor and Masters of City Planning students were also present at the event. In September, MCP students — who were in a seminar focused on high-speed rail systems — pitched their ideas to Biden.

“A few months after our report, Amtrak issued its own proposal which also aims for vastly improved speed and service,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail. “We’re excited to share this goal with them.”

This year, the students have continued to focus on how to get the high-speed rail system funded and built, she added.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s high-speed rail plan — which is different from the School of Design’s and Amtrak’s — would allocate $8 billion from the current fiscal year’s budget to the construction and expansion of a high-speed rail network.

Biden reiterated the ultimate goal that President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 25 — to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail by 2036.

The six-year plan focuses on creating or improving three different types of corridors, or routes: the Core Express corridors, which would constitute the backbone of the high-speed rail network; the Regional corridors, which would branch off of Core Express routes and improve existing rail service; and Emerging corridors, which would connect passengers to major destinations and rail lines.

Biden cited the density of population on the east and west coasts — 70 percent of Americans live within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean — as a reason why the expansion of high-speed rail is essential.

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