June 4, 2016
The Unz Review
NEW YORK CITY – America is falling apart. Anyone who travels in this great land knows it.
This great city is crumbling. I’m scared to take the underwater tunnels to Long Island or New Jersey. Our local airport, LaGuardia, should be in Zimbabwe.
The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that crumbling roads, rusting bridges, decaying railroads and transit systems are costing the nation $129 billion each year, and that crumbling infrastructure adds $97 billion annually and caused travel delays of $28 billion annually.
I raise this scandalous issue because Switzerland, a tiny nation of only 8.2 million, just opened the remarkable Gothard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest and deepest rail and road tunnel drilled right through the highest Alps.
I was in Switzerland in 1996 when the 151.8 km (94.3 mile) long tunnel project was begun, and I just watched its grand opening this week on TV. The project came in a year ahead of schedule and under budget at $10.1 billion. The Swiss are as skilled at watching their pennies as drilling through granite mountains. Rock amounting to 5 Giza pyramids was excavated.
The new Gothard Tunnel (there are two older, narrower ones) cuts almost an hour off the travel time from Zurich to Milan. More important, it will alleviate the frightful congestion and pollution from cars and heavy transport trucks in the narrow Alpine valleys. It creates a direct rail link from Rotterdam in the north to Genoa on the Mediterranean. One day soon, China’s fast-expanding high speed rail network, aka ‘the new Silk Road,’ will tied in to the Alpine network.
Each day, 250 trains will whizz under the Alps. High above the new tunnel are groups of 20th-century Swiss forts whose cannon and machine guns cover the land route over the strategic pass. I’ve inspected the largest at Goschenen, whose 155mm cannon can reach well into Italy. But the Swiss now seem to prefer more trade than old forms of security.
Compared to Switzerland’s excellent roads, beautiful bridges or viaducts, punctual to-the-second trains, the US looks – and perhaps is – a third world nation. Swiss, French, and German trains travel at 230-300km an hour, offering fast, clean, safe, civilized travel (at least when France’s rail workers are not on strike). I just took a French TGV express train from Lorraine on the German border direct to Charles De Gaulle airport in about one hour – what it takes to get from Manhattan to New York’s Kennedy Airport by taxi.