Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HSR webinar: Three-for-one benefit cited

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Job creation, economic development, and environmental improvements rated equally high among participants Wednesday of “Putting America Back on the Fast Track: The Case for High-Speed Rail,” a webinar sponsored by Siemens Mobility and presented by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

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Noting the participant input, Railway Age Editor William C. Vantuono, moderator of the session, said 74% of those responding to a question on the highest HSR priority listed “all of the above” as their answer. Among the remainder, 8% cited job creation as HSR’s highest priority; 11% selected economic development; and 7% environmental benefit.

Consensus was evident on several other HSR factors as well among the three panelists:  Buddy Dyer, mayor of Orlando, Fla., and a leading proponent of Florida’s Orlando-Tampa HSR project; Amtrak Assistant Vice President of Policy and Development Drew Galloway; and Parsons Brinckerhoff Assistant Vice President of Planning and Special Projects Peter Sklannik, Jr.

Among other points, the three noted the value of integrating HSR with other regional/commuter rail and light rail  alternatives, along with other modes.

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Amtrak’s Galloway noted such successful implementation on the Northeast Corridor, while Mayor Dyer pointed to the support of and concurrent development in HSR and regional rail (SunRail) in the Orlando metropolitan area.

PB’s Sklannik stressed the “feeder/distributor network” a mix of rail modes could offer to deliver “a true multimodal effect”—and a maximizing of investment flow that could “help reinvigorate local economies.” That assertion in effect countered HSR critics who assert that the mode will have little beneficial economic impact.

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Each of the three panelists also advanced specific points of his own. For PB’s Sklannik, public/private partnerships are likely a critical formula for most, if not all, U.S. high speed rail development to come. For Orlando Mayor Dyer, HSR funds must be specified and quantified in any renewal by Congress of a Surface Transportation Act—HSR has been omitted from previous measures.

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Amtrak’s Galloway, responding to a question from Railway Age's Vantuono (pictured at right), stressed that “higher-speed rail” (HrSR) must be a part of the U.S. mix to adjust not only to fiscal realities but to varying market sizes and city-pair distances, pointing to ongoing work on Union Pacific’s route linking Chicago and St. Louis which will see 110 mph HrSR service.

Siemens has made available the webinar for viewing, which is accessible by scrolling to the top of this page, or the top of Railway Age’s home page, and pushing the “Register Now” button of the Siemens webcast alert there. Alternately, click here to access the webinar presentation.