The news is out; states and regions are laying the groundwork for American high-speed passenger rail service, and they would like Federal support.
President Obama's vision for new and improved American passenger rail service is speeding toward reality.
The Administration's Recovery Act, which establishes a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail program, may have stimulated this activity. And local plans are already in motion. Right now, there are 10 corridors of at least 100 miles where states are building infrastructure to allow trains to achieve speeds of over 110 mph.
The outcome is clear: this country is building high-speed passenger rail.
And the response to those grants has been enormous. As Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo noted last week,
"We have received 45 applications from 24 states totaling approximately $50 billion to advance high-speed rail corridor programs. We also received 214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects."
People are excited about American passenger rail again. And for good reason.
This week, additional support for American high-speed passenger rail came from an unlikely source. A Brookings Institution report on American air traffic and airports weighed in unexpectedly, noting that:
- The ten metropolitan areas generating the largest shares of flights traveling less than 500 miles were also the source of 42.2 percent of all domestic departure delays.
- The environmental pollutants produced per mile are far greater on short-haul routes versus all others.
As I've mentioned in this blog before, the report points out that America's "investment in inter-metropolitan rail has been behind for decades, both relative to our own history and our industrialized competitors."
Further, it echoes what I've also said here, that at distances of less than 400 miles high-speed rail can meet or beat air's door-to-door travel times.
This points to passenger rail as one way to ease the air traffic burden. As the report reminds us,
"Many countries and studies have found benefits of rail-service versus aviation over shorter distances: environmentally cleaner, more comfortable, ability to add stops, and typically more centralized locations."
This just confirms what the hundreds of rail applications we've received have made clear: passenger rail is an obvious transportation solution.
We'll be reviewing the rail grant applications we've received very carefully and announcing our awards later this winter. In the meantime, the states and regions are already at work.
President Obama, this DOT, and the states and regions around the country are transforming the American transportation landscape.