High Speed Rail Returns to State of the Union

“Ask any CEO where they'd rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of SiemensAmerica– a company that brought hundreds of new jobs toNorth Carolina– has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they'll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I've seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.”

That was the message delivered by President Barack Obama during his State of theUnionlast night.  And it’s a message that should hearten passenger train advocates across theU.S.

The President put forth a "Fix-It-First" program that echoed past infrastructure proposals.  It would identify $50 billion in additional infrastructure spending, emphasizing state-of-good-repair work.  The intent is to shore up the country’s aging infrastructure while creating near-term jobs on projects that can be approved quickly.  The plan would include a provision that leveraged public investment to attract private-sector capital to upgrade businesses-critical infrastructure, transportation-related and otherwise.

“President Obama knows what we at DOT also know: fixing the roads, rails, bridges, ports, transit systems, and other transportation assets most in need of attention will create jobs and help our businesses compete more effectively,” argued Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a Fast Lane entry posted this morning.

LaHood was joined by Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.

“While our transportation systems are crumbling beneath us, some of my colleagues are unwilling to invest in even our most basic infrastructure needs,” said Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). “We need critical investments in passenger rail — as well as rebuilding our roads and bridges—to give our citizens the best chance to compete in the 21st century.”

“I’m a hard-nosed fiscal conservative, but I believe we need to spend more money on infrastructure,” added Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) following a House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure following a hearing today on the federal role in infrastructure investment.

Politico reported that there was stiff push-back to President Obama’s passenger train proposals immediately following last night’s State of theUnion.

“I think he’s lying about CEOs,” said House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to Politico.  “They want to invest in a country that has high-speed rail? Really? Tell me what CEO said that.”

However, Shuster walked those comments back this morning, softening his rhetoric.

“Last night I was quoted in response to the president’s State of the Union address that I implied he was lying about CEOs wanting to invest in a country that has high-speed rail,” said Chairman Shuster at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on infrastructure. “This type of incendiary rhetoric is not my style. I regret using those types of words. While I continue to disagree with the president on this point, I do not think the president is a liar.”

While Shuster maintained his oppositional stance, this more bipartisan tone may be a positive sign.  With a massive capital investment backlog facingAmerica’s passenger rail network—and infrastructure, in general—the time to act is now.

Comments   

 
+1 #2 James Friedlander 2013-02-16 03:34
After digesting Mr. Nagel's commentary with which I agree, let me propose something tp the the NARP membership. That is: let us all study the NARP Vision Plan and similar plans proposed by AMTRAK
and the Midwest High Speed Rail Association and other groups and individuals with a view towards expanding upon them with a view toward

1.) Differentiating between HighER Speed routes and real High Speed routes, recognizing that, in some cases, the former might be a first step towards achieving the latter.

2.) Proposing entirely new routes.

Foy syarters, let me suggest the addition of Louisville=Fran kfort=Lexington ,(KY) with extension tp Cincinnati.\Thi nk of the sports crowds! And the political travellers.
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+6 #1 Alex Nagel 2013-02-13 23:24
Somebody needs to tell President Obama the difference between "high-speed rail" and "higher speed rail". What we NEED is an upgrading of principle mainlines in the U.S. that can handle 90-110 mph passenger trains that can co-exist with freight rail traffic. That's not only doable, it's feasible as well. Also, an expansion of cities not currently served by passenger rail is needed as well.
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