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Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened in New York City on Friday for a hearing about the importance of the Northeast Corridor. The hearing took place in the Farley Post Office, home of the future Moynihan Station. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), chair of the Railroads Subcommittee, wielded the gavel while Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the full committee, participated along with Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The witnesses included the President and CEO of Amtrak, Joe Boardman; Commissioner of New York State Department of Transportation, Joan McDonald; President of Drexel University, John Fry; and President of Regional Plan Association (RPA) and Chair of the Northeast Alliance for Rail (NEAR), Bob Yaro.

The impetus for the hearing is that the current federal rail bill, PRIIA, expires this fall and Congress will begin negotiating the next bill this summer. The next federal rail bill will authorize a five to six years worth of appropriations for the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak, and hence capital improvements to the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The FRA's High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Program is a potential source of future funding for NEC improvements. After Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds in 2011, nearly $1 billion was redirected to the Northeast. Amtrak's federal funding for capital improvements is also largely dedicated to the NEC, where nearly 40% of their capital budget is spent.

In his testimony before the Committee, Bob Yaro outlined the main components of an improvement program that can be authorized in the reauthorization of the rail bill. RPA calls this program, "NEC Now." The NEC Now proposal addresses the corridor's highest-priority infrastructure needs: to remove bottlenecks, increase capacity, improve reliability and reduce travel times along the entire corridor. It also proposes funding for the construction of an Acela Express train optimization program which, along with other NEC Now projects, would cut trip times between New York and Philadelphia to well under an hour.

Download RPA's NEC Now Legislative Proposal & Infrastructure Program.

Download Bob Yaro's testimony as prepared.

Central Corridor Light RailBig infrastructure projects take years or even decades to complete. Too often, that's because planning work gets bogged down in protracted environmental reviews. But new research by Regional Plan Association has identified ways environmental analysis could be completed more quickly, without sacrificing environmental protections.

In "Getting Infrastructure Going: Expediting the Environmental Review Process," RPA finds that the National Environmental Policy Act adopted in 1970 still provides a strong regulatory framework for protecting the environment. But misguided implementation of the law contributes to lengthy delays in delivering big infrastructure projects.

Thumbnail image for cover_nelandscapes.jpgConservation needs to be approached at the regional level in order to ensure that wildlife habitat, water supplies and working farms and forests throughout the U.S. Northeast are protected for future generations, a new report by Regional Plan Association and America 2050 concludes.

The research examines how landscape conservation initiatives are working across the Northeast to protect vital natural and cultural resources. The report, "Landscapes: Improving Conservation Practice in the Northeast Megaregion," makes recommendations for improving conservation efforts that stretch across city and state boundaries, from addressing governance questions and ensuring adequate financial resources to creating tools for measuring the impact of these regional efforts.

Read the Release | Read the Report (Web) (Print) | Read the Project Summary

HSR Charrette_Transit Network-01.jpgA new report released today by Regional Plan Association recommends strategies for leveraging public investments in improving the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Corridor for economic growth. Titled, "Dependable Rail in 2016: What Will it Mean for the Knowledge Corridor Region?", the report includes lessons from successful passenger rail corridors in Maine and Northern California, and proposes a broad set of strategies to build on the $400 million initial public investment being made to upgrade the NHHS Rail Corridor.

These preliminary, recommended strategies are offered for discussion at a convening of business leaders and local officials today in Rocky Hill, who will explore additional strategies and next steps for achieving the maximum economic benefit from the NHHS rail project.

Download the Report (PDF - 5MB).

Thumbnail image for cover_linc-pfr_hsr_300dpi.jpgHigh-speed rail has been adopted throughout the world, and is now being planned and developed in the United States. Over the past 50 years, U.S. transportation spending has heavily favored the development of interstate highway and aviation systems. In the meantime, countries such as China, Japan, Spain, France, and Germany have been investing in modern, high-speed rail systems to satisfy the travel demands of their current and future generations. As the United States embarks on the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program launched in 2009, it can learn from the experiences of other countries in planning, constructing, and operating high-speed rail.

This long-term perspective, discussion of benefits, and recommendations for making high-speed rail work in the United States is presented in a new report released today by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, called "High-Speed Rail: International Lessons for U.S. Policy Makers" (PDF). Written by RPA authors Petra Todorovich, Dan Schned, and Robert Lane, the report documents lessons from over four decades of international experience in high-speed rail in Europe and Asia, applies them to the U.S. context, and recommends a fresh approach that creates new, accountable, rail management structures, brings in the private sector, and concentrates for now on California and the Northeast.

High-Speed Rail in America

A new study released today by America 2050 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.

Download the Press Release.

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 region 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. 

Download the report after the break.

This paper by Yoav Hagler describes the methodology that Regional Plan Association used to identify and define 11 U.S. megaregions. This approach is discussed within the context of historical studies of the Northeast Megaregion -- first identified as Megalopolis in the 1960s, and the creation of the America 2050 initiative and its focus on megaregions, some 40 years later.

Defining U.S. Megaregions

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In an effort to promote a balanced growth strategy for the United States, Regional Plan Association and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy brought together two dozen scholars and economic development practitioners in March 2009 for an America 2050 research seminar to explore new economic development strategies for the nation's underperforming regions. The seminar gathered people with a range of expertise and diversity of backgrounds, including those from declining, post-industrial regions, rural and frontier communities, and experts in state and federal economic development policy to address strategies for declining places within the nation's emerging megaregions and in the spaces in between. Three research papers were developed for the seminar by Yoav Hagler, Robert Yaro, and Nicolas Ronderos of Regional Plan Association. They are collected in this new report along with a summary of the conversations that took place at the seminar.

Download "New Strategies for Regional Economic Development."