October 25, 2010
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LaHood, Bennett, Millar, Others Discuss Plans for High-Speed Rail in Western U.S.
The first-ever conference to promote high-speed intercity passenger rail in the western U.S. brought together Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), and other leaders Oct. 13-15 in Las Vegas. The Western Alliance for High-Speed Rail’s inaugural conference, “The Rail Ahead,” focused on steps for achieving a high-speed rail link between the major cities of the American West, to include Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles—and eventually Reno, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.
“I believe that, 25 years from now, under our plan, 80 percent of America will be connected by high-speed intercity rail,” LaHood told the conference, attended by more than 170 industry executives, consultants, and other experts. “It will cost $500 billion; it’s a huge investment, but we’re off to a great start. We really are.”
APTA President William Millar echoed LaHood’s enthusiasm for the potential of rail in the region. “Imagine getting on a train in Denver and riding it all the way to Phoenix—in less than four hours, instead of 14 hours by car,” he said, “with no stopping for gas and no chance of a speeding ticket.”
Millar also cited the economic benefits of the proposed system. “High-speed rail in the West and across the nation will mean tens of thousands of new, long-term, sustainable American jobs and even more jobs that are sustained by the boost to the economy,” he stressed. “Not just building, operating, and maintaining the rail system, but also jobs brought by increased tourism, new businesses, and new residents. Those jobs will have a ripple effect—benefiting Americans from coast to coast.”
The issue of funding remains as the surface transportation authorization bill continues to be postponed in Congress. As yet, the only federal funding for high-speed rail is the $8 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“Everybody says they wish it were more, but it’s $8 billion,” LaHood said. However, “it’s eight billion times more than we have ever had for high-speed rail,” he noted.
More than 40 leaders in high-speed rail from around the world gave remarks and led sessions, including Tom Skancke, president and chief executive officer of The Skancke Company, as the opening keynote speaker and remarks from WHRSA Chairman Jacob Snow. Session topics included international case studies, public-private partnerships, sustainability, regional partnerships, and creating a regional vision.
Photo by Cheryl Snow