Rep. Moulton introduces bill to create national high-speed rail network

Moulton High Speed Rail proposal header

Today, three U.S. House representatives introduced the American High-Speed Rail Act, which creates a blueprint for a national high-speed rail network and calls for investing $205 billion in it over five years. The bill would also establish development incentives and funding flexibility for non-federal HSR partners. And it would drive comprehensive new safety regulations and standards for U.S. high-speed rail.  The full press release is below.

Introduced by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), the American High-Speed Rail Act builds on a white paper that Moulton released earlier this year. Moulton noted in a press release that a high-speed rail network will be paradigm-shifting on multiple levels. It will foster urban density, spur the growth of new manufacturing and high-tech industries, and boost U.S. productivity by connecting megaregions.

In September, Moulton talked with Alliance members about his vision for the national HSR network. “The economics are very clear,” he said. “What a lot of Americans don’t realize is that we are not living as well as we could—we’re not as productive a society, an economy—because we don’t have [good] transportation options. And if we just simply leveled the playing field and gave high-speed rail a chance to compete against the other modes, then we’d see high-speed rail doing really well.”

Moulton’s co-sponsors on the bill are Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-MA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

“As we prepare to embark on the era of Build Back Better,” Boyle said, “it has never been more crucial to address our nation’s infrastructure in a way that supports and strengthens our commitment to improving both the economy and the environment.” Build Back Better is President-elect Joe Biden’s theme for his infrastructure vision, which includes a key role for high-speed rail.

Karen Hedlund, a former official in the Obama administration’s Federal Railroad Administration, pointed out that “there are projects in the pipeline in every region of the country that could put this money to work—together with local and private investment—employing hundreds of thousands in remaking the American transportation system while reviving the economy.”

The Alliance has long advocated for a federal level, big-picture vision for a high-speed rail network. We applaud the plans and priorities laid out in the American High-Speed Rail Act—and we strongly encourage members to tell their elected leaders to get behind it.

Representative Moulton’s press release

December 9, 2020
CONTACT  Tim Biba,

Moulton, Boyle and DelBene Introduce the American High-Speed Rail Act The bill, a blueprint for national high-speed rail, received the endorsements of national transportation advocates and leaders.

WASHINGTON– Today, Representative Seth Moulton (MA-06) introduced the American High-Speed Rail Act, which would invest $205 billion federal dollars into high-speed rail, create at least 2.6 million direct American jobs over five years, and provide Americans with a new travel option that’s safer than driving, cleaner than flying and never delayed by weather. Representatives Brendan Boyle (PA-02) and Suzan DelBene (WA-01) joined Moulton as original sponsors of the bill.

“High-speed rail is faster, cleaner, safer and better for our economy. It will connect people to more jobs in new places, give Americans freedom and choice in how they travel, and put us on par with the rest of the world. This bill is the plan that will get us there,” Moulton said. “We spend vast amounts of money subsidizing planes, which are delayed by weather, and roads, which are crumbling nationwide. We have the chance coming out of this pandemic to think big and think differently. Let’s not waste the opportunity.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle said: “The American High-Speed Rail Act is the right plan at the right time for the American transportation system. As we prepare to embark on the era of Build Back Better, it has never been more crucial to address our nation’s infrastructure in a way that supports and strengthens our commitment to improving both the economy and the environment. High-speed rail must be a significant part of our infrastructure plans moving forward as we look to bring in the next generation of safe, efficient rail travel for American business and the American people.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene said: “Building a national high-speed rail system would not only reinvigorate the American transportation system but also support our local economy at a critical time. As we recover from dual public health and economic crises, an infrastructure project of this size would create millions of new jobs while investing in cutting-edge, green technology and building a path to new technology and innovation hubs across the country. I am excited to introduce this bill with my colleague Rep. Seth Moulton and work with the Biden administration on developing a stronger high-speed rail system.

The introduction of the American High-Speed Rail Act follows a 30-page white paper Moulton released in May, in which he outlined a vision for building U.S. high-speed rail and the benefits of doing so.

The bill will help build a national high-speed rail system by:

  • Investing $41 billion annually in high-speed and higher-speed rail through grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration over 5 years, with incentives for $38 billion or more in nonfederal funding;
  • Expanding metrics used by states and cities for transportation planning so they include the potential wider economic benefits projects return to the community in addition to the immediate, important economic and environmental considerations they are currently required to consider.
  • Creating funding flexibility and transit-oriented development incentives for non-federal partners, including state and local transportation agencies and private partners; and
  • Developing comprehensive, performance-based safety regulations and standards for high-speed rail to reduce project costs and expedite development.

If the vision the bill lays out is realized, it would provide the country with a number of transportation improvements, including:

  • Better connected economic megaregions along high-speed rail corridors to increase productivity and global competitiveness, with a return on investment that far outweighs the cost of capital investment;
  • A coordinated, national transportation strategy that creates competition and reduces strain on our highway and aviation networks as high-speed rail serves high-volume corridors up to 750 miles;
  • Clean, reliable, and safe transportation from city centers to city centers, with less time in security lines and waiting in terminals, fewer weather disruptions;
  • Building more walkable communities with economic development around train stations in city centers;
  • Connecting hot job markets to communities where it is more affordable to live;
  • Increased national security and exports through increased U.S. independence from imported fuels;
  • An America that is more competitive with China’s use of high-speed rail in its Belt and Road Initiative; and
  • The creation of new American industries, such as manufacturing and high-grade steel production, even in communities that are far from the proposed new transportation corridors.

Moulton has emerged as a leading national advocate for high-speed and commuter rail since he arrived in Congress five years ago. He recently helped secure more than $1 billion for rail transportation in the CARES Act, including $492 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

He was one of the first elected officials in Massachusetts to endorse the North South Rail Link, a plan that would connect commuter lines servicing Boston, increase their reliability and reduce traffic in America’s most gridlocked city. He also commissioned the Harvard Kennedy School to study transportation issues including North South Rail Link’s true cost and the hidden amount that the state spends subsidizing its gridlocked roads. Harvard found it costs Massachusetts residents $64 billion per year to sit in traffic, whether they own a car or not.

Prior to serving in Congress, Moulton worked as a project manager for a high-speed rail project that is likely to become the first viable high-speed option in the country.

Several leading experts and advocates for high-speed rail weighed in on the bill:

Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said: “We owe it to the next generation of Americans to build the next generation of transportation, and that’s high-speed rail. If ever there were a moment for big ideas that force American transportation to evolve and put people to work, it’s right now. This plan will do that.”

Karen Hedlund, who served in the Obama Administration as the Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration, said: “Seth Moulton’s proposal represents an extraordinary vision for transportation in a post-COVID America. The funding  would be at historic levels, but there are projects in the pipeline in every region of the country that could put this money to work – together with local and private investment – employing hundreds of thousands in remaking the American transportation system while reviving the economy.”

Andy Kunz, President and CEO of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association said: “We commend Congressman Moulton for his committed, visionary leadership on high-speed rail, and have been working with him for the past year providing guidance. high-speed rail has proven all over the world to be a smart, modern transportation mode delivering layers of benefits to the many nations that have it. Congressman Moulton’s work and dedication to bringing high-speed rail to America is exemplary and speaks volumes as to his love of this great nation and his faith in our ability to create a bright, prosperous future for all Americans.”

Carlos Aguilar, CEO of theTexas Central Railway said: “We at Texas Central look forward to bringing the very first high-speed rail system to the nation! We applaud Congressman Moulton’s effort to advance high-speed rail for America by investing in the needed infrastructure and streamlining procedures.”

Brian Kelly, CEO of  the California High-Speed Rail Authority said: “Federal investment in clean, electrified, high-speed rail is right for the country’s economic and environmental future. This transformative technology moves people between destinations in a fraction of the time it takes to drive or take conventional rail, while eliminating harmful pollution and providing well-paying construction jobs that support working women, men and their families. The future is about clean, high-speed rail, and the time to act is now.”

Marc Buncher, President and CEO SiemensMobility North America said: “As a Buy-America compliant rolling stock, rail infrastructure and electrification manufacturer in the United States for nearly four decades and with 2,000 suppliers across 40+ states, we are excited to support the vision laid out by Congressman Moulton. high-speed Rail would not only deliver a more sustainable and efficient transportation option for Americans, it would also create jobs and connect communities that have been disconnected from urban centers. HSR is the way of the world and I would love nothing more than to see this in the USA!”

David Cameron, Assistant to the Director of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of the Teamsters said, “Successful economies demand efficient and effective transportation systems. High-speed rail has proven effective worldwide.  With more than 32 million Americans out of work, Rep. Mouton’s proposal takes a dramatic step forward as an investment in our future transportation needs that will be at the same time, a massive jobs-creating engine helping revive and reinvigorate multiple sectors – steel production, manufacturing and our industrial base – with rippling economic benefits. During this time of crisis and massive job loss, we need to think big again. Thinking small won’t do it.  Rep. Moulton’s proposal is a huge step in the right direction.”

Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the high-speed Rail Alliance, said: “Rep. Moulton’s plan for high-speed rail arrives at just the right time—when we need a powerful, long-term economic stimulus and practical strategies for expanding opportunities. The economy, the environment and the future are on the line. This plan deserves our strong support.”

Nicole Brewin, Vice President for Government and Public Affairs of the Railway Supply Institute said: “Federal leadership is critical to providing long term, predictable and sustainable funding for intercity passenger rail. This legislation would encourage railway suppliers to make investments in domestic manufacturing jobs across all 50 states and help support the thousands of people already employed throughout the passenger rail manufacturing sector, including essential maintenance, repair, and equipment refurbishment operations.”

Patrick Goddard, President of Brightline said: “All over the world high-speed rail has proven to be a successful and modern form of transportation and now is the time to reimagine and reinvent passenger rail in America. Upgrading our nation’s infrastructure and building high-speed trains can be a signature moment for this generation. It will not only create much needed infrastructure but also tens of thousands of jobs at a time we need them most.”

Jérôme Wallut, CEO and President of ALSTOM Transportation Inc. said: “Alstom thanks Congressman Moulton for his leadership in advancing a long-term national vision for passenger rail investment in Massachusetts, the Northeast Corridor and across the country that can be the foundation for green mobility in the United States. Investment in passenger rail can be an economic engine for local communities. Buy America requirements ensure this investment is directed to passenger rail suppliers that are part of the domestic rail supply sector that employs over 125,000 people across all 50 states and pays an average wage 40% above the national average. Alstom proves that Buy America works. We are proud to deliver high-speed trains for the Northeast Corridor with 95% U.S. content using parts manufactured by nearly 250 suppliers in 27 states. More than 1,300 new jobs will be generated in nearly 90 communities across the United States to support production, including the creation of new, sustainable, high-tech, engineering and manufacturing jobs in New York.”

Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association said: “Here, finally, is a plan for passenger rail in America that rivals the ambition of President Eisenhower’s vision for highways in the 1950s. Congressman Moulton has put forth a blueprint for a national passenger rail network that stops the long, slow decline of our country’s transportation infrastructure, bringing economic growth and opportunity outside of a handful of ‘superstar cities’ to the rest of America’s cities and towns. For too long passengers have had to fight for scraps of funding on the periphery of the transportation policy debate; Moulton’s national high-speed rail plan moves trains to the center of that debate with an ambition not seen in U.S. infrastructure in generations.”

Dr. Tracy Corley, Ph.D., Transit-Oriented Development Fellow at Gateway Cities Innovation Institute at MassINC said: “Congressman Moulton’s proposal for high-speed rail is a step in the right direction at the right time. Covid-19 is highlighting the glaring disparities in public health, economic opportunity, and transit access across our country. Small cities and rural towns are losing their hospitals, essential workers and small businesses are under constant threat, and not everyone has reliable car access to get to goods and services, including health care, that will help them weather the pandemic. Investing in infrastructure, transit-oriented development, and long-term service jobs through high-speed rail (as part of an Air-to-Rail-to-Bus/Subway network) provides a great opportunity to address public health and economic inequities as well as environmental goals.  As a frequent flier and child of an airline employee, I know that I and the airlines would love to save the high costs of time and resources that come with short flights that can be better served by high-speed rail. And as a former German resident, I miss the speed and comfort of  high-speed rail to visit loved ones a few hundred miles away. The US is nearly a century behind other countries in providing clean, reliable, equitable high-speed travel options, and we have the talent, tools, and existing rail networks to make high-speed rail happen through collaboration and true public-private partnership.”

Martin Ritter, CEO of Stadler US Inc. said: “Stadler is encouraged by the increased focus on passenger rail projects in the US. At Stadler we are passionate about supporting the extension of rail networks to provide a reliable, safe and efficient addition to road and air travel. This is a major opportunity to connect cities and towns all over the US comfortably and sustainably.”

Jason G. White, Executive Officer – Americas of Hitachi Rail said: “Hitachi has pioneered the technology behind many of the world’s first high-speed rail systems and vehicles, and continues to deliver innovative high-speed solutions around the globe. We believe in the safe, comfortable, reliable and environmentally-friendly options represented by high-speed rail. To Hitachi, new high-speed lines and services have the potential to transform U.S. infrastructure and, more importantly, materially aid the U.S. economy as it recovers in the post-COVID-19 era.”

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