America 2050 Update: April 6, 2010

April 6, 2010
America 2050 Email Update

In This Update:

  • Save the date: May 11: Forging a National Rail Plan for America
  • America 2050 Joins
  • Learning from "HS2": Parallels to the Northeast Corridor 
  • On the Road with Beyond the Motor City
  • A Policy Shift to Sustainable Transportation

national rail diagramSave the Date - May 11 - Forging A National Rail Plan for America The nation's rail authorizing legislation, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, directed the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to develop a long-range national rail plan for passenger and freight rail that comports with state rail plans and "the needs of the Nation." A preliminary national rail plan released by FRA in 2009 provides a starting point for this effort. Given the Obama Administration's significant focus on high-speed and conventional passenger rail, the final rail plan is likely to have a lasting impact on rail planning and investment for decades to come.

On Tuesday, May 11, 8:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m., America 2050 will host a public panel discussion at the Capitol Club at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. The event is free and online registration is now open. The panel will feature Karen Rae, Deputy Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration; Stephen Gardner, Vice President of Policy and Development, Amtrak; and others to consider questions such as:

  • Should the FRA establish thresholds of population and employment density, transit connections, and existing intercity air or rail markets for different levels of federal investment in passenger and high-speed rail?
  • What are the best models for planning, financing, and operating multi-state and/or inter agency rail corridors?
  • How should the needs of passenger and freight be balanced on shared corridors?

America 2050 Joins In fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated $2.5 billion for high-speed and passenger rail improvements, a huge annual appropriation (compared to pre-stimulus levels) for rail on top of the $8 billion in stimulus funds. The $2.5 billion figure was actually a compromise between the House and the Senate: $4 billion was originally proposed by the House and $1.2 billion by the Senate. America 2050 joined with a new coalition,, in pushing the final figure up to $2.5 billion.

Budget season is starting again and America 2050 will work with to secure a generous appropriation for high-speed and passenger rail. We are anticipating a launch of this year's campaign in late April. Of course, to ensure a lasting commitment to a national network of high-speed rail, a dedicated source of funding is needed. We are discussing with lawmakers potential sources of dedicated funding for intercity rail, but in the meantime it is important to maintain momentum for this program by maximizing annual appropriations.

Learning from "HS2": Parallels to the Northeast Corridor: A recent post by Yoav Hagler on America describes Great Britain's new proposal for a high-speed rail line linking London, England with Birmingham to the north and on to Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. What's interesting about the U.K.'s proposal is the calculus they made in proposing a new high-speed rail network, rather than incremental improvements to the already 125-miles per hour West Coast Mainline. Like the Northeast Corridor in the United States, the West Coast Mainline links an extended urbanized region of about 50 million people over roughly 400 miles and is reaching capacity. But rather than spend a decade of disruption and billions of pounds to eke out marginal trip time and capacity improvements on the existing line, they've proposed to spend £30 billion for a completely new line that will essentially double capacity and drastically reduce trip times, altering the economic geography of Great Britain.

On the Road with Beyond the Motor City: The WNET/ PBS documentary,"Beyond the Motor City" will go on the road this spring to various cities around the country for screenings and discussions with the director, Aaron Woolf, transportation advocates, and local leaders for a screening tour sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. America 2050 collaborated with the creators of this film and is pleased to promote these events and to ask its partners to consider hosting a screening of the film. More information about hosting a screening in your community is available here.  The documentary aired first on PBS in February and includes excerpts of the America 2050 clip, Journey to Detroit. View a schedule of the screenings in Memphis, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Newton Center, Mass.  

A Policy Shift To Sustainable Transportation: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made waves a fews weeks ago with a speech he gave at the National Bike Summit in which he declared a new policy that will "treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes." America 2050 Director Petra Todorovich hailed the announcement as a "win-win-win-win." You can read her commentary on the National Journal Transportation Blog here.