Speech

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High-Speed Rail Summit

Secretary Ray LaHood

"Remarks as Prepared for Delivery”

High-Speed Rail Summit

Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Four years ago, President Obama laid out a bold and achievable vision for transforming American passenger rail.

Our highways and airports were already stretched to their limits, facing congestion that would only get worse with time. 

The President knew we couldn’t afford to wait to build the national passenger rail network we will need in order to be competitive in the global marketplace.

We faced a choice: act now – or face a transportation crisis later.

This Administration took action – and from coast to coast, we’re already seeing the results.

Through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program, the Obama Administration has invested nearly $12 billion in high speed rail, funding 154 rail projects in 34 states. 

Forty-three high speed rail projects worth $3.1 billion are currently under construction or will be soon in 17 states and the District of Columbia. 

Seven projects in six states are now complete.

And thanks to the hard work of many of you in this room, those projects are already paying dividends for the American people.

In the Midwest hundreds of workers are already upgrading tracks that run from St Louis to Chicago and on to Detroit.  

Last year, trains on that corridor began reaching 110 miles per hour – the fastest speeds outside the Northeast Corridor. 

By 2015, trains will run at 110 miles per hour throughout most of the routes – cutting both trip times by close to an hour.

New service to Brunswick, Maine has drawn millions of dollars in private investment to the station neighborhood, and linked thousands of commuters to the larger passenger rail network. 

In the Pacific Northwest, we are moving forward with 21 projects that will increase the number of roundtrips and cut trip times.

We’ve invested more than $3 billion in the Northeast Corridor for projects that will:

Increase speeds from 135 to 160 miles per hour on critical segments,

Improve on-time performance,

And add more seats for passengers so one of the nation’s busiest corridors can continue to set ridership and revenue records.

And this summer, California will break ground on the first rail line in America that will have trains traveling at over 200 miles per hour. 

When complete, California commuters will be able to escape crippling congestion by boarding a 220 miles per hour train that will take them from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours.

Thanks to our partnerships with all of you, the future of passenger rail in America has never been brighter.

Already, demand for passenger rail service is overwhelming. 

Amtrak carried more than 31.2 million people nationwide last year, the ninth record high in the last ten years. 

And that demand is only going to grow.

That’s why we’ve launched the first Northeast Corridor planning effort since the Carter Administration.  

It’s called NEC FUTURE – and it’s one of the largest multi-state transportation projects ever undertaken in the United States.

The end result will be a clear vision for how to make the most of the Northeast Corridor and to outline a 30-year rail investment plan to guide us forward.

Planning for high-speed and higher-performing intercity passenger rail service is also moving forward in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Texas.

And all of these investments are part of a long-term vision for a comprehensive passenger rail network anchored around truly high-speed service.

For the most densely populated markets, we’re investing in high-speed rail – trains moving 150 to 220 miles per hour. 

In mid-size markets, we’re investing in services at speeds of 90 to 125 miles per hour. 

And at the same time, we’re investing in vital upgrades to feeder routes that improve connectivity.

We know that President Obama’s vision for rail won’t happen overnight. 

When Eisenhower first became president, he set a clear goal:  to build a modern, efficient interstate highway system. 

Realizing that vision required ten Administrations and twenty-eight sessions of Congress, but year by year, piece by piece, we got it done.

Today, we have the best national highway system in the world.

That is why we need a sustained commitment – not only from the federal government, but from our states, stakeholders, and the private sector.

But, as you can see, we are delivering.

And we are seeing the benefits of a modern rail network in communities across America.

Just as we enjoy the benefits of the interstate highway system begun by President Eisenhower and his generation, our children and grandchildren are going to reap the fruits of our labors on American rail.

High-speed and higher-performing intercity passenger rail is the transportation legacy we will leave to our future generations.

And now, I’d be happy to take any questions.

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Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013