Monday, July 16, 2012

LaHood: True believer in HSR

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Any attendees at the UIC 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail in Philadelphia last week still skeptical of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's belief in HSR likely had those doubts removed.

Addressing the congress July 11, LaHood saluted the state of California for proceeding with HSR development there, observing, "The leadership in California reminds us that California has always led the way. He added that in terms of U.S. HSR development, "This is a historic step not just for California but the whole country. What we are leaving to the next generation is the next generation of transportation: high speed rail. High speed rail is not something we can afford to put aside until later."

LaHood peppered historical antecedents within his speech, again citing the creation of the U.S. transcontinental rail network and the Interstate highway system. But he added the construction of the Panama Canal as a third example of U.S. visionary development. "We've done it before; we intend to do it again," he said.

Adding the Panama Canal reference was no accident, apparently added after the secretary shared thoughts with attendees at a continental breakfast gathering prior to the speech, with one attendee mentioned the canal as an example, one source involved in the conversation told Railway Age. "It strongly suggests that LaHood really gets it, that he sees the historical significance, that he's listening to high speed rail people and not just showing up at the event," the source said.

UIC Director-General Jean Pierre Loubinoux was similarly impressed. "Well! What a speech!" he enthused to the audience immediately following LaHood's remarks.

The gathering was the first such UIC (International Union of Railways) event in the U.S., and was cosponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

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