April 23, 2010

AHSRA urges Congress to act on volcanic threat

The American High Speed Rail Alliance (AHSRA), a Washington, D.C. advocacy organization, urged Congress and the Obama Administration to accelerate efforts to build America's high-speed rail program in the wake of worldwide transportation disruptions caused by the eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, and the potential for similar and possibly larger seismic events, especially in the Western U.S.

Alliance president, Eric C. Peterson, noted the important role Europe's high-speed rail service played in helping to reduce the full impact of aviation disruptions brought on by volcanic ash in the atmosphere. "For over a week international and domestic air travel in Europe has been disrupted, stranding travelers and affecting the shipment of goods around the world," said Peterson.

Volcanologists are now holding their breath and crossing their fingers that the larger Hekla volcano does not erupt. Records show that on at least three occasions in recorded history where the Eyjafjallajökull volcano became active it was followed by an eruption of the Hekla volcano that lasted for more than a year.

"Such an event would devastate the world economy, and depending where the volcanic ash blew, could severely affect the U.S. economy and transportation system," Peterson said.

Noting that most of North America's volcanoes are located in the west, and that the prevailing North American winds are from the west to the east, if the United States experienced a volcanic event even the size of Eyjafjallajökull, the impact on the U.S. economy could be catastrophic without a dependable passenger rail program, according to AHSRA.

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