America 2050 Update: September 24, 2008

In This Issue:
  • Northeast Business Leaders calls for passage of Amtrak Bill
  • Upcoming forum: Rebuilding and Renewing America: Infrastructure Choices in the Great Lakes Megaregion
  • Amtrak Ridership Continues to See Record Levels
  • PBS Launches Blueprint America
  • Megaregion Update - Piedmont
  • About America 2050

Northeast Business Leaders call for passage of Amtrak Bill

On September 10, members of the Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility, including representatives of the CEO Council for Growth of Philadelphia, the Greater Baltimore Committee, Regional Plan Association of New York, the New England Council and others, convened with lawmakers in Washington D.C.'s Union Station to show their support for the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.

The press conference fell during the first week of a three-week legislative session that is scheduled to draw to a close this Friday for election season. The bill, which passed both houses of Congress in the past year with veto-proof majorities, will authorize increased funding over five years to Amtrak and states for passenger rail capital and operating expenses. Business leaders urged the House and Senate to meet in conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills and advance a unified bill for a final vote by the end of the year.

We learned this week that the House and Senate have worked out most of their differences on the bill and tacked it onto the Rail Safety bill, which has new urgency since the recent passenger and freight train collision in California. The challenge now will be finding floor time for the bill in the Senate as lawmakers address the evolving bailout package for Wall Street before the target adjournment date of this Friday.

If the Passenger Rail bill does not pass this year, the process must begin again next year with new bills in each House. However, at this point we don't know whether the Congress will continue to meet next week, or reconvene for a lame duck session after the Presidential Election.


Rebuilding and Renewing America: Infrastructure Choices in the Great Lakes Megaregion

On November 17, 2008, the Regional Plan Association and the Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago will host the first in a series of America 2050 regional forums focusing on the nation's infrastructure titled, "Rebuilding and Renewing America: Infrastructure Choices in the Great Lakes Megaregion."  This series builds on the "Rebuilding & Renewing America" forum that took place in Washington D.C on May 9th of this year.  At that event, civic leaders and policy makers gathered to discuss the need for greater infrastructure investment at the federal level.

The gathering in Chicago will bring together 250 leaders from the business, labor civic, government, and academic communities in the Chicago region and the surrounding Great Lakes states to discuss and refine efforts to develop a national infrastructure plan. It will aim to identify and build consensus around the strategic infrastructure priorities and approaches in the Great Lakes megaregion that can be included in a national infrastructure plan and the authorization of a new surface transportation bill in Washington in 2009. More information about the forum will be available shortly on the America 2050 website.


Amtrak Ridership Continues to See Record Levels

For almost a year now, Americans have felt the burden of surging gas prices and have shifted to intercity rail and public transit.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, ridership on Amtrak increased 14 percent last month from last year at the same time.  The Capitol Corridor, which serves the San Francisco to Sacramento market, has seen ridership increase by 33 percent.  Overall gains across the nation on Amtrak's routes seem to support its projected total ridership of 28 million for the current fiscal year.  It is clear that some of the nation's busiest highways, airways and rail corridors have reached or are near capacity.  Leaders in Washington have responded to these trends by passing legislation in both the House and Senate to authorize increased funding for Amtrak and state investments in passenger rail.  The increased funding could help Amtrak fix existing infrastructure deficiencies, such as aging bridges and tunnels, as well as finance a long awaited capital program to expand services. Read the WSJ article here.


PBS Launches Blueprint America

Blueprint America, a new year-long initiative by PBS, will explore the topic of national infrastructure, with specific attention paid to transportation. The goal of this project is to elevate awareness and initiate debate about America's neglected infrastructure. The project will span multiple programming platforms on PBS that will include in-depth reports on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, NOW, and Worldfocus, as well as original prime time documentaries, and education and community outreach. Blueprint America has also created a web presence that will be a repository for original video and audio content, a source for related news links, and serve as a place for public comment and debate. Visit the Blueprint America website.


News from the Megaregions - Piedmont

August 13th - A recent Georgia Trend article discussed the emergence of megaregions and the importance of this geographic scale in planning for the future and resolving regional conflicts.  Megaregions "allow us to engage in the world that happens around us.  They allow us to have conversations in global, national, regional and local communities.  They permeate all those levels," says Catherine Ross, head of the Center for Quality Growth & Regional Development (CQGRD) at Georgia Tech.

The Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion (PAM), a six-state zone, includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.  PAM recorded a total population of 47 million according to the last census, and expects to reach 82 million by 2050.  The concern for policy makers and planners across this vast geographic region is how to prepare for this growth, recent disputes over water resources, and how to tackle issues of climate change in an auto-dependent economy.  Many leaders from PAM believe building on the megaregion strategy will put them in a competitive position in the global marketplace. 

Some of the questions Ross and many researchers and planners will be addressing are: What should PAM look like in 50 years? Which roads and bridges need to be repaired or replaced?  How do we cope with traffic congestion? Read the article.


About America 2050

America 2050 is a national initiative to develop an infrastructure plan for the United States that will position America for equitable, sustainable and prosperous economic growth. With partners across the country, we are developing strategies that anticipate the challenges of rapid population gain, climate change, mobility, and ensuring national prosperity in a changing global economy.

A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of megaregions - large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of America's growth by mid-century will take place - and how to organize infrastructure investments, environmental protection, and economic opportunities for all at this new scale.

America 2050 includes a network of partners across the country developing long-range strategies for sustainable growth and prosperity. A list of America 2050 partners is available on the America 2050 website at www.America2050.org.



America 2050 Update
Edited by Petra Todorovich
Director, America 2050
Contact: Petra@rpa.org
212-253-2727 x322