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A week of progress includes step forwards for projects in Florida and the Pacific Northwest

December 11, 2020

Photo: bbt609 via flickr

U.S. high-speed rail made major progress on multiple fronts this week. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) introduced a bill in the U.S. House to build a national high-speed rail network. Projects in the Pacific Northwest and Florida gained traction. And California’s high-speed rail project won a major sustainability award. The details:

  • Moulton’s bill—the American High-Speed Rail Act—calls for investing $205 billion in HSR over five years. It would also create new safety standards and regulations, smoothing the way for private investment and public-private partnerships. In a white paper earlier this year, Moulton noted that without standardized regulations, “every proposed project entails tremendous delays and regulatory costs.” The bill would also define different tiers of high-speed rail (110-186 and 186+) “to ensure alignment of HSR development in the U.S.”Most importantly, the bill creates a vision for connecting every region of the country with high-speed rail lines—a major milestone. Moulton noted that a national HSR program would not only juice the economy by increasing U.S. productivity and connectivity. It would “exponentially increase job growth across a number of industries (e.g. construction, engineering, manufacturing) in the near and medium term, in addition to permanent jobs created for operations and maintenance.” Watch the Alliance’s video chat with Moulton here.

 

  • A new report on the path forward for a Cascadia-region “bullet train” recommends the creation of an independent body to plan the system. The line would run from Vancouver (British Columbia) to Portland, via Seattle. Funding for the report was provided by the states of Washington and Oregon, the province of British Columbia, and Microsoft Corporation. Each expressed strong support for the project. “Imagine fast, frequent and reliable travel with the potential for zero emissions and the opportunity to better compete in a global economy,” Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, said. “It could transform the Pacific Northwest.” Last year, a business case study examined the project from several angles. It found that the line will attract up to 3.1 million riders annually while creating $355 billion in economic growth and 200,000 new jobs. The next steps including building a broad coalition of support for the project; determining the route; and deciding which technology is most appropriate (e.g., ultra high-speed rail versus magnetic levitation). Planners expect the trains to run at up to 250 mph, so the trip between Seattle and both Vancouver and Portland will be roughly one hour. The projected top speeds for California’s high-speed rail project are 220 mph. Top speeds for the Northeast Corridor’s Acela trains are 160 mph.

 

  •  Fortress Investment Group announced plans to sell $950 million of unrated, tax-exempt debt to fund the extension of its Brightline train service. In 2019, Fortress sold $1.75 billion in debt to fund the first segment of the service, from Miami to West Palm Beach. Construction on the new segment is ongoing, with service from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport set to begin in 2022. The trains will travel at speeds up to 125 mph. A station located a mile from Disney World is scheduled to open in 2023. With the extension of the line to Orlando—and with the addition of three stations along the segment from Miami to West Palm Beach—Brightline projects a dramatic increase in its ridership over the next few years—from about 1 million people in 2019 to 9.9 million in 2024.

 

  • California’s high-speed rail project won a Platinum Envision Award for sustainable infrastructure. The project—which has created nearly 3,000 full-time jobs, “with an emphasis on job creation for people living in historically disadvantaged communities”—will cut more than 100 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The award was granted in part for the wide range of sustainability features built into the overall design, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure and green roofs at stations. Construction has achieved net-zero emissions through carbon-sequestration projects.  

Keep the momentum for high-speed rail going by signing the Alliance’s petition to Congress.

Articles We Enjoyed:

Biden backs Amtrak, but can he convince GOP?

Gov. Inslee: High-speed rail 'could help us rebuild our economy' post-COVID

Fortress returns to Muni Market, this time for Florida train

Rail advocates hope Virginia’s new authority will take ‘politics out of our rail policy’

Cascadia bullet train: go for it or ‘kill this thing’?

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