Earlier today, I wrote about the great transportation developments the Obama Administration is supporting in America's cities. I'd also like to discuss how this Administration is creating strong, 21st century connections between our nation's cities with smart investments in passenger rail.
As you may have read, last Friday I had the good fortune to be aboard an Amtrak train in Illinois that reached a speed of 111 miles per hour. The Midwest’s vision is to connect the region’s 40 largest cities with passenger rail that delivers significantly faster trip times, more service, and superior on-time performance. That means 110 MPH trains providing direct connections to city centers and seamless transfers to other modes of transportation.
In the bottom left of the monitor in the photo above, with Illinois Gov. Quinn, U.S. Senator Durbin, and
FRA Administrator Szabo, you can see the "111" indicating our speed. Photo courtesy www.harveystock.com
In just three years, the Midwest has gone from having a vision to having the fastest trains outside the Northeast Corridor, but this Administration and its state partners have achieved much more than that one milestone, and--believe me--we have even more in store for inter-city rail travel.
Nationwide 154 different projects are addressing all aspects of rail development from laying and upgrading track to eliminating bottlenecks, developing stations, and planning for future construction.
In California, America’s first 220 MPH high-speed rail system is moving forward. This project alone will create jobs and provide a one-ticket ride between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than 3 fuel-efficient hours. That is what 21st century inter-city travel looks like.
We're also aggressively preparing for the Northeast Corridor’s future. Right now we’re in the planning and environmental review process to help determine the future of rail services between Washington, D.C. and Boston.
And we’re engaged in similar planning efforts south of D.C. By the end of 2013, North Carolina and Virginia will have completed the required environmental and engineering work to pursue their shared vision for higher-performing intercity passenger rail service between Raleigh, Richmond, and D.C., a vision that will cut today’s trip time by about 90 minutes. We’ve also awarded funding to Georgia to plan for higher-performing intercity passenger rail service between Charlotte and Atlanta.
Further west, between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston, 150 MPH rail service is being studied, with three potential routes identified. And a corridor plan is being developed for service connecting Oklahoma City and Dallas/Fort Worth, with further connections to Austin, San Antonio.
Amtrak's Heartland Flyer in Norman, Oklahoma, courtesy of Ottergoose on Flickr
Why have our state partners across the country started to lay the foundation for improved passenger rail?
Because they know a 21st century economy won’t run on last century's transportation. They know that, by 2050, American will be home to an additional 100 million people, and that congestion today already costs our economy close to $130 billion a year.
And they know that, given the pressure we’re already placing on our highways and airports, we can’t afford not to invest in the most energy-efficient choice for intercity travel: passenger rail.