This week, the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail is meeting, and--for the first time ever--it's meeting in the United States. Why now? Because the world's rail manufacturers and operators know that this is an exciting moment to spotlight the progress of high speed rail and improved passenger rail in regions throughout the nation.
Around the world, high-speed rail is not a pipe dream of the distant future. It’s happening right now, and it’s been happening for decades. And thanks to President Obama’s vision, high speed rail is coming to America.
With the country's population expected to increase dramatically in the next 50 years, and our roadways and airways already congested, making it easier and faster to travel between cities is not something we can afford to set aside for later.
Now is the time to put people back to work building a modern transportation network—one that makes our economy strong and gives Americans the options they need. High-speed and higher performing passenger rail are critical to getting the job done.
And DOT is working hard right now to make it happen.
Already, 32 states and the District of Columbia are at work building President Obama’s bold vision for 21st century rail. Our partners are moving forward with 153 high-speed and higher performing passenger rail projects. This year alone, 45 projects representing nearly $3 billion in federal investment are scheduled to be underway or complete. In fact, 2012 marks the busiest rail construction season to date.
And though we are just getting started, make no mistake, this train has left the station.
As we seen in California and the Northeast Corridor, some states are deeply engaged in developing high-speed rail options for their residents. The Northeast Corridor is home to one in seven Americans and produces 20 percent of the nation’s GDP. This density and the region’s already strong rail market make this area an ideal candidate for high speed rail.
We have the technology to make trains even faster, improve service reliability and reduce travel times in this region. Amtrak’s vision for the Northeast is to deliver 96-minute service between New York and Washington and 83-minute service between New York and Boston.
Elsewhere in the country, we're working to enhance intercity passenger rail service with more reliable trains traveling at accelerated speeds. We're concentrating our investments in five mega regions so we can deliver better service to areas where demand for rail is already high and areas where future rail potential is strong.
President Obama and our partners in rail understand that making these investments is the best way to ensure more jobs today and a stronger economy tomorrow.
And they're not the only ones who understand this. I hear it from Members of Congress. I hear it from governors and mayors. And, most importantly, I hear it from people everywhere I go in this country.
Yesterday, the American Public Transportation Association announced the results of a national survey showing that nearly two-thirds of Americans are interested in traveling by high-speed rail. And the figure soars to 74 percent among younger Americans.
People want high-speed rail, and when we build it, they will choose to ride.
High Speed Rail is the next step in a balanced U.S. transportation system. And we're making progress toward it right here in America, right now. But we've got work to do and lots of it. So let's get busy.