America 2050 Update: February 15, 2011

  • President Unveils Ambitious 6-year Transportation Program Including $53 Billion Plan for High-Speed Rail
  • New Report on Funding and Financing Transportation - AASHTO
  • T&I Committee holds Field Hearing on Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail
  • America 2050 Report: High-Speed Rail in America
  • Where are Northeast Landscapes being conserved?
  • America 2050 in the News

President Unveils Ambitious 6-Year Transportation Program Including $53 Billion Plan for High-Speed Rail

Yesterday, the President sent his 2012 budget to Congress. It included an ambitious proposal for a 6-year, $556 billion surface transportation program, including $53 billion for high-speed rail. Details of the FY 2012 Department of Transportation budget can be downloaded here

Such a large number for the 6-year transportation program (above even former Chairman Oberstar's proposal in 2009) signals the President is serious about "winning the future" through investments in infrastructure that enhance our nation's economic competitiveness. The proposal also front loads approximately $50 billion worth of transportation programs in FY 2012 to stimulate job creation in this uncertain economy.

It also indicates that transportation (and high-speed rail as a signature initiative) has moved to the front of the President's agenda, just in time to make a push for a 6-year authorization bill before the Presidential election cycle starts up again. America 2050 applauds the President for his bold leadership on this issue and looks forward to
receiving more details on specific reforms that underpin the budget proposal.

The White House has not yet offered details on how to pay for the program, despite the plenitude of feasible but politically unpalatable revenue options. (Read below for a new report we worked on with AASHTO detailing funding and financing solutions for transportation.) A new infrastructure survey by the Rockefeller Foundation published yesterday in the Washington Postfound that voters say improving transportation infrastructure is highly
important and that our current system is inadequate, yet they are resistant to backing taxes to pay for it. Even so, a majority of voters were open to private investment, a National Infrastructure Bank, and eliminating subsidies for American oil companies to drill in other countries. Read more about the poll here.

New Report on Funding and Financing Transportation

The AASHTO Center for Excellence in Project Financeconvened a one-day forum in the Capitol last September for Members of Congress, congressional staff, and transportation industry stakeholders to explore funding and finance solutions for surface transportation. America 2050 was a co-sponsor of the event and a contributor to the report. The conference report covers federal funding options such as: motor fuel-based fees, vehicle-related fees, freight-related taxes, road tolling and pricing, broad-based sources (such as general fund revenue), and value-capture techniques around transit hubs. It also explores transportation financing tools, such as: tax exempt bonds, direct federal credit (TIFIA), Private Activity Bonds, Build America Bonds and other tax-credit bonds, national and state infrastructure banks, and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).

Download the conference report here

T&I Committee Holds Field Hearing on Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail

The U.S. House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held their first field hearing of this Congress in New York City at Grand Central Terminal on January 27, where Petra Todorovich testified on behalf of the Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility, a coalition of more than 30 business and civic groups in Northeast Corridor staffed by Regional Plan Association. The title of the hearing reflected Chairman Mica's signature sense of humor, "Developing True High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor: Stop Sitting on our Federal Assets." Other witnesses included former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Thomas Hart of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, and Robert Scardelletti from the Transportation Communications International Union.

Download Petra's testimony from the Committee's website here.

Access the Chairman and all of the other panelists' remarks here.

View a video of the entire hearing, courtesy of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association

New America 2050 Report: High-Speed Rail in America

In case you missed it, last month America 2050 released a major new study that identifies the high-speed rail corridors with the greatest potential to attract ridership in each of the nation's megaregions. Corridors connecting populous regions with large job
centers, rail transit networks, and existing air markets scored best. The study also recommends that the federal government adopt a quantitative approach to evaluating future investment in high-speed rail.

The 56-page study, entitled, "High-Speed Rail in America," cites ridership potential as the number one factor in determining if a corridor is suitable for investment, identifies the specific conditions that generate ridership demand, and scores each corridor according to strength in those areas. The top performing corridors in each megaregion determined to have the greatest potential demand for high-speed rail ridership include corridors such as: New York-Washington, DC; Chicago-Milwaukee; Los Angeles-San Diego; Tampa (via Orlando) to Miami; Dallas-Houston; Atlanta-Birmingham; Portland-Seattle; and Denver-Pueblo.

You can download the full report below, or in sections. You can comment on the report on the America 2050 website.

High-Speed Rail in America Webpage

Complete Report (31 MB)

Where are Northeast Landscapes Being Conserved?

In the category of green infrastructure, last week America 2050 and RPA released the first in a series of maps for its Atlas of Northeast Landscape Conservation. These maps show trends about landscape conservation initiatives in the Northeast Megaregion. Preliminary analysis has revealed some key trends: landscape conservation initiatives are young and growing, ambitious in scope, and overwhelmingly local.

More trends will emerge as the inventory continues to build. Additional maps and inventory analysis will be released later this month, including an urban growth build-out model for the region. Results will be used as the basis for an upcoming report and conference on this topic.

In the Northeast Megaregion, complex urban development patterns and high demand for land and resources pose particular challenges for conservation. RPA and America 2050 are working across political jurisdictions to produce a comprehensive inventory of landscape conservation initiatives that protect watersheds, wildlife habitat, and other natural processes at the appropriate geographic scale. The project was launched in November, 2010 with the support from The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area.

Visit the inventory website to see the hotspot map and data charts and to comment on the inventory of landscape initiatives.

America 2050 Press Coverage

The release of our report, High-Speed Rail in America, last month helped raise America 2050's profile in the news media as a source of information and opinion on high-speed rail. A sample of news articles published since the year began are collected below.

National Coverage

PBS - Need to Know - Fixing America (video) - January 7, 2011

Reuters - Prioritize three U.S. high speed rail corridors: study... Joan Gralla, Diane Craft - January 11, 2011

The Infrastructurist - New Report: The Most Promising US High-Speed Rail Routes Eric Jaffe - January 11, 2011

Transportation Nation - Potential High Speed Rail Corridors Rated: Northeast Tops List Alex Goldmark - January 11, 2011

METRO Magazine - Report Identifies High-Speed Rail Corridors with Greatest Ridership Potential - January 11, 2011

Daily Kos - Two Republicans hint at OK for high-speed rail - February 2, 2011

ABC News - High-Speed Rail Critics Question President Obama's $53 Billion Plan - February 10, 2011

Regional & Local Coverage

California High-Speed Rail Blog - America 2050 Shows the Viability of HSR in California Robert Cruickshank - January 12, 2011

Utica Observer-Dispatch - Ranking national high-speed-rail corridors Bryon Ackerman - January, 12, 2011‎

San Francisco Business Times - California high-speed rail is on track to succeed, report predicts Eric Young - January 13, 2011

Tampa Bay Online - Planner says Scott should take high-speed rail money Ted Jackovics - January 14, 2011

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel - Hiawatha seen as prime candidate for high-speed upgrade Larry Sandler - January 15, 2011

The Journal News/ - Rail report's simple premise: Build where people are - Ken Valenti - January 16, 2011

All Over Albany - Albany-NYC: strong potential for high-speed rail? - January 18, 2011

The Baltimore Sun - Tracking the future of high-speed rail Peter Jensen - January 20, 2011

Orlando Sentinel - 2 views on high-speed rail | Bring it on: Economy, tourism will win big Petra Todorovich - January 21, 2011

Greenbay Press Gazette - More trains the answer to transport woes Kathleen T. Riley - January 23, 2011

The San Diego Union-Tribune - LA-SD high speed rail link scores high in new study Robert J. Hawkins - January 25, 2011

Minneapolis Star Tribune - Plans for fast Twin Cities-Chicago train hit speed bump - Pat Doyle - February 7, 2011