Two weeks ago, President Obama delivered a powerful message. To win the future, the President said, we must dream big and build big.
That's why it was such a privilege yesterday to join Vice President Biden in Philadelphia to announce our comprehensive plan to help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.
There are some things our country cannot afford to shortchange--and one of them is infrastructure. Why? because our economy depends on it.
The President is proposing to invest $53 billion over the next six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network. This will help jump-start a new American industry and create tens of thousands of private-sector jobs even as it builds a 21st century foundation for our economy.
Vice President Biden said yesterday there is a fundamentally new global competition going on today, and America is well-positioned to thrive in it. We have innovative entrepreneurs. We have skilled workers. We have whip-smart engineers, physicists, chemists, and designers.
But our ability to take advantage of our top-notch resources is only as good as our ability to move goods and people quickly, safely, and reliably. As I blogged yesterday, "We must--once again--build the best roadways, runways, and railways in the world."
And the one element of America's infrastructure that is emblematic of a nation seeking to secure long-term economic prosperity for future generations is high-speed intercity rail.
Now, the reason we made our announcement in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is simple. That is where folks traveling from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor connect to high-speed Acela service to Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC. Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent. In fact, more passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia--and from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington DC--by rail than by plane.
Pennsylvanians get it. Like the Americans who built this great nation, they have seen a vision of the future and said, "Yes," in terrific numbers. They know that, for certain trips, rail just makes more sense.
The President’s Budget for the coming fiscal year would invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service. These investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:
- Core Express: These corridors will form the backbone of our national high-speed rail system, with trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
- Regional: These crucial corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high-speed service.
- Emerging: These corridors will feature trains traveling up to 90 mph and will provide travelers access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.
Dozens of companies in the rail business are ready to build plants and hire American workers. We have received commitments from more than 30 rail suppliers and manufacturers to create or expand their bases of operation in the US should they be awarded contracts for portions of high-speed rail money. More importantly, they have agreed to build our rail networks with American workers using American-made materials, which will ensure we can deliver the maximum benefits to our economy.
When it comes to building a national high-speed rail network, President Obama and Vice President Biden have been true visionaries. They’re every bit as important for tomorrow’s infrastructure as President Eisenhower was for the interstate highway system or as President Lincoln was for the transcontinental railroad.
There can be no doubt that they have set an ambitious goal. But with these two men and this great nation, we are on our way to connecting America with effective high-speed intercity rail.