Since 1967, the National Association of Railroad Passengers has worked for "a modern, customer-focused, national passenger train network."
DOT shares those goals, so last Tuesday, it was easy to talk with NARP members about the Obama Administration's rail priorities and to thank them for standing behind the President's bold vision for America that includes high-speed and inter-city passenger rail.
It was also a pleasure to join NARP in recognizing the achievement of University of Illinois professor Christopher Barkan. Dr. Barkan is the Director of the Railroad Engineering Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; under his leadership, the school has expanded the rail curriculum from one course to six, making it the largest of any North American university. In 2010, Dr. Barkan and his colleagues added a course on High-Speed Rail Engineering—a significant step forward for American high-speed rail.
We know --and NARP members can quote the statistics for you-- that more and more Americans are turning to passenger rail service to get where they need to go. For example, last year was a record-breaker for Amtrak ridership --its eighth in a row-- with 30 million passengers riding the rails. And Amtrak is on course so far this fiscal year to set yet another record.
That's why they're turning to transit and railroads, and that's why the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration are working hard to keep transit systems and long-distance passenger rail vibrant and in a state of good repair.
That's also why our support for high-speed rail remains as strong as ever. Right now, our partners in 32 different states are moving forward with 153 projects. For example, earlier this year passenger trains began running at 110 miles per hour between Porter, Indiana, and Kalamazoo, Michigan--the fastest service outside the Northeast Corridor. And two weeks ago, the California High Speed Rail Authority approved a revised plan for high-speed service in the Golden State.
High-speed rail is coming to America. And as it advances, it's going to create jobs, spur economic development, and reduce roadway congestion.
The President has called upon us to work together toward an America that's built to last, and we can't do that without a passenger rail system that puts people to work today and creates economic opportunity tomorrow.
Thanks to strong partners like NARP, that's exactly what we'll do.