UIC Opening Plenary at Pennsylvania Convention Center on July 11, 2012
Secretary Ray LaHood
--Remarks Prepared for Delivery--
UIC Opening Plenary
Pennsylvania Convention Center
Wednesday July 11, 2012
Good morning. I’d like to begin by thanking the International Union of Railways for holding this year’s congress in Philadelphia.
And I want to recognize the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for hosting.
As most of you know, this is the first time the annual World Congress on High-Speed Rail has been held in North America. On behalf of President Obama, welcome and thank you for being here.
Right now is an exciting moment to spotlight the progress of high speed rail and higher performing inter-city passenger rail in regions throughout the United States.
High-speed rail is not a pipe dream of the distant future. It’s happening right now all around the world – and it’s been happening for decades.
And thanks to President Obama’s vision—High-speed passenger rail has come to America.
On Friday, California took an historic step toward building their first high speed rail network—a bullet train project that ultimately will allow passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.
That’s twice as fast as driving on the highways, which are some of the most congested in the nation.
As some of you may know, California will add over 7 million additional residents in the next 20 years, and already has some of America’s most delay-prone airports.
California’s high-speed rail network is not just a logical answer to the state’s congestion problems.
This project is a landmark accomplishment for America. And it’s an investment that will improve the lives of generations to come.
California understands that, in addition to faster travel, high-speed rail will bring more jobs and economic development.
I commend the California legislature for taking the steps necessary to fund this project.
Their leadership reminds us that Californians have always embraced bold visions and delivered public projects that chart the way for the rest of the nation.
The Department of Transportation looks forward to continued work with California as we move forward with this momentous high-speed rail project.
All of you know better than anyone else that high-speed rail is not something we can afford to set aside for later.
Here in the U.S., we need to put people back to work building a modern transportation network—one that makes our economy strong and gives Americans options.
High-speed and higher performing passenger rail are critical to getting the job done.
Today, 32 states and the District of Columbia are at work building President Obama’s bold vision for 21st century rail.
Our partners are moving forward with 153 high-speed and higher performing passenger rail projects.
This year alone, 45 projects representing nearly $3 billion in federal investment are scheduled to be underway or complete. And soon, we can add California to that list.
In fact, 2012 marks the busiest rail construction season to date. We’re laying and improving tracks, building new stations, upgrading equipment, and doing pre-construction planning.
And we’re just getting started.
Amtrak’s service in the Northeast Corridor is already faster than any other passenger rail service in the Western Hemisphere.
We applaud Amtrak’s vision for the Northeast to deliver true high speed rail—96 minute service between New York and Washington, D.C. and 83 minute service between New York and Boston.
The Northeast Corridor is home to one in seven Americans and produces 20 percent of the nation’s GDP.
This density and the region’s already strong rail market make the corridor an ideal candidate for high speed rail.
To date, we have made a down payment of more than $3 billion to make trains even faster, improve service reliability and reduce travel times in this region.
Elsewhere in the country, we are working to enhance intercity passenger rail service with higher performing trains traveling at accelerated speeds.
We are concentrating our investments in five mega regions in an effort to deliver better service to areas where demand for rail is already high and areas where future rail potential is strong.
We’re also looking at regions that are currently underserved or not served at all.
Our partners understand that making these investments is the best way to ensure more jobs today and a stronger economy tomorrow.
And finally, we are working alongside industry, labor, suppliers and researchers to determine what the Next Generation of rail equipment will look like and more importantly, how it will perform.
We’re working to make trains faster, more sustainable and more reliable.
We know we have work ahead of us. But, we are making progress.
America has always been a nation of dreamers and builders. When we think big, we are capable of building the infrastructure needed for a strong and prosperous nation.
We have done it before and we intend to do it again. Generations before us built the Erie Canal, the Interstate Highway system, and the Transcontinental Railroad.
Today, our generation’s job is to invest in both high-speed rail and higher performing passenger rail—and that’s exactly what we’re doing in states across the country.
Forget the critics and naysayers. High Speed Rail is the next generation of transportation. And it’s already here.