President Obama Puts National High-Speed Rail Plan on Fast Track
Scott Bernstein, President of CNT, was invited to participate in a public announcement of President Barack Obama’s national high-speed rail (HSR) master plan. The President, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, who has commuted to D.C. on rail every day for his national elected career, thanked the select group of leaders who have been working tirelessly on bringing high-speed rail to the United States. President Obama presented a vision that challenges Americans to imagine traveling at 100 mph or more by train, then making local connections by walking or transit. “The Obama administration is moving quickly to advance high-speed rail as the most sustainable and cost-efficient mode of innercity transit,” said Bernstein. “By investing in high-speed rail, the Obama administration is not only addressing transportation issues but also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The announcement started with a briefing by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), who stated that the program would focus on corridors of 100 to 600 miles, where intermodal connections could be the ‘sweet spot’. When Bernstein asked them to expand on that point they explained that the program offers an opportunity to support the President’s priorities on transit and livable communities in an urban policy context, reducing greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions, and saving scarce airport space for longer distance travel.
The FRA report on HSR and the announcement by President Obama cite the 2006 report by CNT and the Center for Clean Air Policy, “High Speed Rail and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the U.S.”, where we calculate a total emissions savings of 6 billion pounds of CO2/year if all HSR projects are built.
Secretary Ray LaHood likened the program to the transcontinental railroad program in the 19th century, saying that the common sense was that it could not be done in their lifetime but it got built in 7 years – when the Golden Spike was driven the telegrapher simply sent out one word, “Done”.
President Obama expanded on the vision, saying that the plan is intended to be the next level after the Interstate highway program, pointing out that second generation systems are already in place around the world, like Tokyo and Osaka, where the system will run at speeds over 300 mph, and Spain, where their new HSR corridor system has a higher mode share than aviation.
- High Speed Rail Strategic Plan and High Speed Rail Corridor Map, available on the Federal Highway Adminstration’s web site.
- U.S. Department of Transportation Press Release
- Lynn Sweet’s, of the Chicago Sun-Times coverage
- ABC News coverage
Background of CNT’s work:
Scott co-founded the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP) in 1990, a national coalition which shifted federal policy toward greater local control, and currently serves as Chairman. Scott served on the Steering Committee of the Presidential Climate Action Project, bringing CNT’s research and expertise in transportation, land use, and climate change to the plan’s transportation agenda.
In 2006, CNT partnered with the Center for Clean Air Policy to release a study of the feasibility of high-speed rail service between major urban transit corridors in the United States, concluding that a full network of high-speed trains could save as much as 6 billion pounds of Carbon Dioxide per year. Download “High Speed Rail and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the U.S.” here.
(Photo by Scott Bernstein)