APTA | Passenger Transport Express
April 17, 2009

News Headlines

Obama Unveils High-Speed Rail Plan; Will Change Way Americans Travel


President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Transportation Secretary LaHood                  (Photo:White House/Chuck Kennedy)

At a White House event on April 16, President Barack Obama unveiled the Administration's vision for high-speed rail corridors. He also presented the strategic plan for the development of the corridors. Joining him were Vice President Joe Biden, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair James Oberstar (D-MN), and Acting Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Karen Rae. Also attending were APTA Chair Beverly Scott and APTA President William W. Millar.

The plan identifies 10 high-speed rail corridors around the United States: California; the Pacific Northwest; Northern New England; New York State; Pennsylvania; a Midwest line, with Chicago as its hub; a line from Washington, D.C., to Florida; a Gulf Coast line, from Texas to Alabama; a Florida corridor; and a Texas-Oklahoma line.

In his remarks, President Obama said, “What we’re talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America…Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination.  Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America.”

President Obama noted that the new corridors, funded initially by $8.4 billion from the ARRA law, will support thousands of jobs around the nation. “A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve,” he said. Such an investment is also necessary, he said, to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, reduce traffic congestion, and help to solve the nation’s environmental problems.

Those points were echoed by Scott in APTA's statement.  “High-speed rail will not only be good for mobility, but it will be good for reducing our nation’s carbon footprint, for attaining energy independence, and for creating economic prosperity,” she said.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it will issue by June 17 interim guidance on grant terms, conditions, and procedures for prospective grantees who wish to use ARRA funds to plan and develop high-speed rail in any of the 10 corridors.

 “This high-speed rail strategic plan signals a major step forward in transportation policy," Millar said in APTA's statement. "The American public transportation industry stands ready to work with President Obama and his Administration to truly create an interconnected, intermodal transportation system. Finally, America is stepping up to the plate to develop high-speed rail like other countries around the world have." 

Porcari Nominated as Deputy DOT Secretary

John Porcari has been nominated by President Obama as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Porcari, who is Maryland's current secretary of Transportation, also served in that position under Gov. Parris Glendening's administration. He noted that he might commute to his new job from Cheverly, MD, via the Washington Metro. APTA President William W. Millar lauded the nomination of Porcari and said that APTA looks forward to working with him.

APTA Members Put ARRA Funds to Work

APTA members continue to use recovery funds to expand public transit and support jobs. Chicago Transit Authority will use $56.6 million of its ARRA funds to renew 36,000 feet of track in the Blue Line Dearborn subway. In Lancaster, PA, Red Rose Transit Authority will use $5.1 million to expand and renovate its main operations center, which houses the main administrative offices and maintenance facility; the project will bring “green” energy savings features to the 30-year-old structure. In Savannah, GA, Chatham Area Transit will invest its $4.5 million from ARRA to buy hybrid vehicles and replacement parts. In California, Monterey-Salinas Transit will apply $7.6 million to the financing of several projects, including $3.8 million to finish paying off the purchase of 46 buses and $1.8 million to build a new operations and maintenance facility.

Obama, Biden Make Encore Appearance at DOT

On April 13, President Obama and Vice President Biden made their second joint visit to the Department of Transportation, to mark the 2,000th infrastructure project funded by the new recovery law. Obama noted that the signs of the economic recovery are evident in many places, including "the plans underway to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, modernize our airports and shipyards, develop high-speed rail networks and restore aging public transit systems.  All told, we are making the largest new investment in America's infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System back in the 1950s," he said.

OMB Seeks Comments on Proposed ARRA Reporting Requirements

The Office of Management and Budget has invited comments on its proposed ARRA reporting requirements, to be submitted by May 1. APTA is also collecting comments to pass on to OMB; the deadline for submitting comments to APTA is April 24.

Downey Discusses Administration's Progress, Future Challenges

Former Deputy Secretary of Transportation Mortimer L. Downey, at an April 7 event at the APTA offices, shared his views on the administration’s progress in public transportation and what the industry can expect in coming months. He noted what he considers several positive policy signals from the new administration: the commitment to passenger rail, an earmark-free recovery bill, and a belief in discretionary programs.

Downey remains the longest-serving deputy secretary of Transportation in U.S. history and has also served on five incoming and outgoing presidential transition teams, including President Obama’s.

Save the Date

May 1 is the last day to receive the early registration discount for APTA's 2009 Rail Conference in Chicago, June 14-18. The conference provides attendees with the most comprehensive learning and networking experience possible and includes a complete slate of technical sessions relevant to the operation, management and maintenance of rail and fixed guideway systems.

In the Media

ABC World News on April 13 featured a story on the ripple effect brought about by the additional purchase of hybrid buses using ARRA funds. The piece, which mentions several APTA members, notes that $115 million has been spent so far on hybrid buses, in 15 communities.

The MSN network featured an article on how new jobs associated with green infrastructure, including jobs in public transit, can help workers laid off from other industries regain full employment.

And the Portland Oregonian reports that Secretary LaHood has called that city’s streetcars and other light rail a model for the nation.

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