The New Interstate
Written by Michael Podgers, a member of HSRA's Young Professionals Board
“For $108 billion we’ve got another lane of pavement in each direction, and it still takes you all day to get from Portland to Vancouver. Half of that invested in ultra-high-speed rail and it’s two hours. That’s game-changing stuff." - Roger Millar, Washington State Secretary of Transportation
When President Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System, the United States was in desperate need of new transportation infrastructure to meet the 20th-century economy. Four generations later, the United States’ infrastructure again needs an upgrade and modernization to meet the needs of a high-tech, globalized 21st-century economy. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a New Interstate System. One for the next century: the Interstate High-Speed Rail System. The original Interstate Highway System revolutionized travel in the United States, but the nation is overdue for another mobility revolution. This is why the High Speed Rail Alliance supports the vision for a New Interstate of high-speed electric rail lines. Now is the time for President Biden and Congress to pass policies and funding mechanisms that support high-speed rail development projects at all levels of government and to connect U.S. towns and cities like never before.
Just as the Interstate Highway System connected communities across the country and supported new transportation needs, the New Interstate high-speed rail system will transform travel while easing congestion on our roads and at our airports. It will shorten trips and bring communities closer than ever. Thousands of jobs will be created to produce, design, build, and operate the New Interstate high-speed rail system. Long-term investment will flow from the newly created economic opportunities made possible by the connectivity which high-speed rail facilitates.
To make the New Interstate a reality, President Biden and Congress must support a bold vision for passenger rail in the United States. Both the executive and legislative branches can show this support by passing and implementing policies and funding tools that level the playing field for all types of transportation investments. With these, the federal government can positively enable local governments, states, and private interests to proactively make high-speed rail planning and infrastructure investments. Even without broad federal support, high-speed rail projects are advancing in California and Nevada, Texas, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest. With proper federal support, high-speed rail growth could be explosive.
The High Speed Rail Alliance supports policy and financial programs to pass in 2021 to lay this foundation--literally and figuratively. We are excited that President Biden proposed a sharp increase of funding for rail and transit in the American Jobs Plan and in Representative Seth Moulton’s American High-Speed Rail Act, which creates a blueprint for a national high-speed rail network. We need Congress to act quickly so high-speed rail projects can advance at a high-speed pace.
Just as the Interstate High System changed how Americans got around during the 20th-century, the New Interstate will positively change how Americans travel in the 21st-century. Just as the highway system connected U.S. communities like never before, the New Interstate will link towns and cities, businesses and customers, friends and family across the country faster, safer, cleaner, and more comfortably and conveniently than ever.
By signing this petition, you are telling Congress that you support the vision of a New Interstate made up of a combination of high-speed, regional and shared-use lines that covers the entire continental US. We, the public, understand that making this vision a reality requires changing policy and funding mechanisms in ways that support high-speed rail investment and development at the local, state, federal, and private level.