America 2050 Update: August 23, 2010

  • Connecting Cascadia: A High-Speed Rail Vision for the Pacific Northwest
  • Business Alliance Requests Congressional Hearing on Northeast Corridor
  • Building an Atlas of Landscape Initiatives in the Northeast Megaregion
  • Save the Dates Nov 14-16: HSR New York-Northeast Corridor Conference
  • FREIGHT Act provides framework for national goods movement plan
  • America 2050 in the News

Connecting Cascadia: A High-Speed Rail Vision for the Pacific Northwest

This July America 2050 sponsored a two-day planning charrette in Portland, Oregon with stakeholders along the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor - stretching from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon to develop a vision for an integrated Cascadia megaregion enabled by high-speed rail.

Building on America 2050's research on Where High-Speed Rail Works Best the workshop sought to explore the economic, land use, urban design, and transportation strategies and investments necessary to fully leverage federal, state, provincial, and local investments in high-speed rail in this binational corridor. The workshop was an opportunity to broaden the focus of regional leaders on how high-speed rail can help advance larger goals for Cascadia as a more interconnected, sustainable, and prosperous megaregion.

To learn more, you can download the detailed briefing book of background information prepared for workshop participants. You can also access America 2050's original map of the Cascadia megaregion prepared for the workshop, which synthesizes transportation, land use, and the regional planning strategies of the entire megaregion on the America 2050 Maps Page (scroll to the bottom of the page.) A summary of workshop proceedings and next steps will be posted to the America 2050 site in the coming weeks.


Business Alliance Requests Congressional Hearing on Northeast Corridor

A coalition of Northeastern business and planning organizations staffed by Regional Plan Association have sent a letter to Chairman Oberstar (D-MN) and Ranking Member Mica (R-FL) of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last week requesting a Congressional hearing be held this fall on the Northeast Corridor.

As the Northeast Corridor was largely passed over in the first round of ARRA grants, business leaders in the Northeast are anxious to see it qualify for future federal grants through the federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. In May, eleven northeastern states and Amtrak submitted a planning proposal to the Federal Railroad Administration seeking $18.8 million for a four-phased planning study to study major improvements to the corridor, including a programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) -- the first EIS for the entire corridor since 1979.

A hearing on rail service in the Northeast Corridor would produce a constructive dialogue between federal lawmakers, the business community, and other stakeholders along the corridor, about ways to overcome barriers to funding and implementing true high speed rail in the Northeast.


Building an Atlas of Landscape Initiatives in the Northeast Megaregion

Efforts to protect water, habitat and other natural resources are often divorced from regional and local land use decision making and infrastructure investment. Planners and conservation advocates are meeting this challenge by working across political jurisdictions to establish landscape conservation initiatives that protect watersheds, ecosystems and other landscape-scale processes by identifying and responding to the broader threats of regional land use and infrastructure investment decisions.

This is especially true across the eleven megaregions that are the locus of much of the nation's growth and development, where there are hundreds of locally driven initiatives that are bringing together local, state, and federal partners. With support from The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, America 2050 and Regional Plan Association are helping landscape conservation initiatives succeed in implementing their goals in one of these: the 13-state Northeast Megaregion. Read more about the inventory on the America 2050 website.


Save the Dates Nov 14-16: HSR New York-Northeast Corridor Conference


America 2050 is pleased to co-sponsor the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's conference in New York City on November 14-16, 2010 at the New Yorker Hotel. General registration is now open.

The conference will include two days of speakers and workshops focusing on the policy, planning, engineering, governance and financing of true high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor and on the Empire Corridor in New York State. Speakers will include members of the Obama Administration, Amtrak, Northeast State DOTs, private engineering firms, members of Congress, Mayors, and economic development officials from throughout the Northeast. The conference will also include tours of major rail projects underway in the New York Metropolitan region and showcase successful examples of transit-oriented development. 
Register Here.

I had a chance to attend and speak at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's conference in Los Angeles in June on High-Speed Rail and Regional Economies. You can view a video of my speech here.


FREIGHT Act provides framework for national goods movement plan

The United States could soon have, for the first time, an official federal policy on freight if a bill introduced last month in the Senate becomes law. Three Senators, lead by Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, introduced a bill that would make it the policy of the United States "to improve the efficiency, operation, and security of the national transportation system to move freight." The bill, titled Focusing Resources, Economic Investment and Guidance to Help Transportation (FREIGHT) Act of 2010, enumerates five primary objectives to achieve this policy goal:

• Reduce delays at international points of entry
• Increase travel time reliability on major freight corridors
• Reduce by 10 percent the number of freight related fatalities by 2015
• Reduce national freight related CO2 levels by 40 percent by 2030
• Reduce freight related air, water, and noise pollution

The bill establishes within the Department of Transportation an Office of Freight Planning and Development, and gives the DOT two years to develop a National Freight Transportation Strategic Plan that would guide federal investment to achieve these goals.

The bill also establishes a competitive grant program to provide funding for capital investments for freight projects. These grants could go towards projects such as port or intermodal facility improvement, freight rail improvement or capacity expansion, and Intelligent Transportation Systems to reduce congestion. It also mandates that the DOT develop new tools "to support an outcome-oriented, performance-based approach to evaluate proposed freight-related" projects.

Click here read the complete text of the bill.


America 2050 in the News

Is the U.S. turning a corner on high-speed rail?
Aug. 18, 2010, CNN
The United States Conference of Mayors, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and America 2050 -- a coalition of regional ...
U.S. High-speed Railway a matter of cost and demand Aug. 18, 2010 International Business Times: [America 2050 co-chair] Robert Yaro ... strongly supports the high-speed rail project. "The rest of world is building these rail networks and we lag far behind," he said. "If you're going to have a competitive economy in the 21st century, I think we really need to move ahead with this project."...

Penn Students Create Ambitous Plan for Rail Service Aug. 11, 2010 The Philadelphia Inquirer It envisions reducing travel time between New York and Philadelphia by four minutes. "Amtrak's new plan leaves you with a really good early-20th-century rail system," said [America 2050 co-chair] Robert Yaro, one of two Penn professors who taught the students in the School of Design's department of city and regional planning. ...

Cost the Highest Hurdle for High-Speed Rail in U.S. Aug. 9, 2010 The Philadelphia Inquirer:"These are big, expensive projects that take years to complete," said Petra Todorovich, director of America 2050, an urban-planning organization in New York City. "They're not for the impatient." She said... "

Texas Aims to Get State-Wide Rail Back on Track Aug. 4, 2010 Houston Public Radio News: Out of 27,000 possible city pairs, a connection between Dallas and Houston ranked tenth in having the greatest potential demand, according to a study released last year by America 2050.

A Vision of Fast Rail for Cascadia Jul. 19, 2010 Enzyme PDX:
America 2050 envisions a future where high-speed rail connects constellations of interlocking metropolitan areas called megaregions. "Often these corridors are of less than six hundred miles in length," said Ed Burgess a project manager at America 2050. "They share a common landscape, history, culture and strong economic interconnection."