Sec. Pete Wows Crowd at HSR Conference

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg and Former Secretary La Hood discussing high speed rail.

Post by: Rick Harnish, Executive Director

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was interviewed by former Secretary Ray LaHood in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the US High Speed Rail Conference this week.

I left the event motivated by knowing that Sec. Buttigieg is so knowledgeable and committed to great trains.

Here are my takeaways from a rather compelling discussion:

  1. Cathedrals. Building high-speed rail is akin to building cathedrals. The people who lay the corner stone know that it will fall upon later generations to finish the project. Our children and their children will benefit—but only if we start now. “I’m coming to this increasingly now as a parent,” Sec. Buttigieg said. “Our twins are two and half years old. . . .One of the things I really love is the thought that . . . If we hit our marks, they will never know a world without high-speed rail in the United States.”
  2. The snowball effect. The earliest projects are the hardest, most expensive, and most time-consuming. “California paid the pioneer premium”. Brightline West will move the ball forward. The next projects will be quicker and easier. As the Secretary said, “We should aspire to exponential growth. We need to get this moment right.”
  3. Building bridges. There are so many compelling reasons to build HSR that it should be possible to build bi-partisan support.  This is especially true because states that are typically considered “red” are some of the most fertile ground for high-speed trains—including Ohio, which is home to major cities that would benefit greatly if interconnected.
  4. Skate to where the puck will be. Electric cars and changing land use patterns are changing driving habits.  We need to build high-speed rail to meet the growing demand.

This event follows upon his remarks at the Brightline West groundbreaking just two weeks earlier, where he laid out a succinct case for building high-speed rail.

As Congressman Seth Moulton said at the same event: We are at a tipping point.

We need to seize this moment and help our champions in DC get it over the hump.

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