Back on the Train GangBy Michael Dukakis. Dukakis is a former governor of Massachusetts and served on Amtrak's board of directors. He thinks we need to use Detroit factories to manufacture trains.After years of delay
, during which both Europe and Asia enjoyed the benefits of modern trains that run at speeds of 200 miles per hour and beyond, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Congress have made an $8-billion down payment on what can and should be a national rail passenger system that will rival the ones our friends in Europe and Japan have been enjoying for years.Unfortunately, our failure to invest in high-speed intercity rail has also led to the demise of what was once the world's biggest and best rail-car-manufacturing industry. While GE continues to make quality locomotives that it ships all over the world, the rest of the United States has been incapable of making transit cars and passenger trains for years. For that reason, U.S. metropolitan transit systems and Amtrak have been forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on foreign-made trains because our country has lost the capability to build them.This must change. There is no reason that we can't revive and rebuild our rail-manufacturing industry, especially in places like Michigan that have taken the toughest blows during the current economic downturn. We have plenty of unused and underused industrial capacity, thousands of skilled workers who are currently collecting unemployment compensation, and auto-parts manufacturers who are perfectly capable of making the components of trains.What's needed is a strong push by the administration, Congress, and states like Michigan to take advantage of what the new national commitment to investing in transit and rail now makes possible.We have the people. We have the industrial capacity. We can certainly recapture the know-how we once had-another example of how an economic crisis can create new opportunities if we have the sense and determination to take advantage of them.