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Redefining Transit: The Bold Leap Toward High-Speed Rail in the USA


Lauren Miller

May 16, 2024 - 20:23 pm


Pioneering a New Era of High-Speed Rail in America: Leaders Gather to Propel Bullet Train Network Development

In a seemingly monumental step toward revolutionizing American transit, over two hundred distinguished figures from industry, labor, politics, and academia recently convened with the aim of propelling strategies and policies to build an extensive bullet train network across the nation.

On May 16, 2024, at the annual U.S. High Speed Rail conference in Washington, D.C., prominent advocates for high-speed rail, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, former White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, and other leading figures, highlighted the gathering. Their presence underscored the weight of the collective mission, to not only envision a future with high-speed rail but to lay down its groundwork as an infrastructure cornerstone.

Unprecedented Advancements and Crucial Investments

Speakers at the conference voiced their optimism, noting that America is ushering in a new era of high-speed rail progress following unprecedented investments from the Biden Administration. The significant ground-breaking ceremony of Brightline West for a bullet train from Las Vegas to Southern California just last month, significant labor agreements, and the federal designation of seven high-speed rail corridors nationwide have infused fresh momentum into the initiative. These corridors, which encompass notable regions such as Dallas to Houston and Portland-Seattle-Vancouver, BC, pave the way for a transformation in regional connectivity and transportation dynamics.

Building High-Speed Rail as a Major Mode of Transportation

The conference witnessed a series of sessions that deliberated various plans to elevate high-speed rail into a major mode of transportation in the U.S. The discussions ranged from launching new high-speed projects across key regions to accelerating the construction timelines and ensuring that the initial bullet train projects effectively demonstrate the sweeping benefits that high-speed rail can offer to the nation.

Insightful Outlooks from Conference Advocates

House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi addressed the assembly, emphasizing the critical role of high-speed rail in tackling one of the country's most pressing challenges — housing affordability. She illustrated how mass transit and bullet trains could provide solutions to issues spanning from environmental protection to job creation, underscoring the multifaceted benefits of the high-speed rail network.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shared a more personal perspective, reflecting on his duties as a parent and his children's curiosity about his work. Envisioning a future where his two-and-a-half-year-old twins would grow up in a nation interlaced with high-speed rail, Buttigieg underscored the transformative potential of the current endeavors, positioning this period as pivotal for introducing high-speed rail to the United States.

Senator Alex Padilla pointed out the importance of initial projects like the high-speed rail in California and Brightline's connection between the Los Angeles region and Las Vegas. He sees these projects as foundational steps towards an eventual national network, signaling a widespread transformation in intercity travel.

Lending a historical perspective, former California Governor Jerry Brown highlighted the decades of effort behind the high-speed rail project in California via a video message. He credited the long-term political will and bipartisan support, including efforts from figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gavin Newsom, for the continuity and investment in the state's high-speed rail endeavors.

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, now Co-Chair of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition, drew parallels with international success stories, emphasizing the crucial role national governments play in such projects. LaHood advocated for leadership that is willing to take the initiative and provide the necessary funding to achieve similar standards of high-speed rail service.

Brightline CEO Mike Reininger saw the ongoing high-speed rail efforts as the inception of an industry destined for growth. These projects will not only test the existing construction and technological expertise but also pave the way for subsequent projects that would follow much more smoothly due to the experience gained.

Amtrak's Senior Vice President for High-Speed Rail, Andy Byford, indicated that smaller aspirations like those of Amtrak can transform into significant accomplishments, similar to tiny seeds growing into large oaks. Byford noted that, parallel to Californian advancements and Brightline's progress, Amtrak is crafting its national strategy to become a pivotal player in America's railroad infrastructure.

CEO of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, Andy Kunz, stated that while the recent federal investments immensely fortify American high-speed rail, the vision demands substantial financial support and policy reforms. The association, along with its allied advocacy coalition, remains devoted to overcoming these challenges and capitalizing on the historic opportunities currently available.

Notable Additional Voices

Other notable speakers at the conference included US High Speed Rail Coalition Co-Chair Rod Diridon, U.S. Representatives Jim Costa, Seth Moulton, Suzan DelBene, and Rick Larsen, Federal Railroad Administration head, Amit Bose, and Washington State Transportation Secretary Roger Millar. The gathering also included insights from Terry Hynes, Senior Counsel at Sidley Austin, LLP, Philippe Lorand, Senior Advisor from UIC in France, and Maria Luisa Dominguez, Board Advisor from ADIF in Spain.

Comprehensive Coverage for Enhanced Engagement

The conference offered a plethora of information for enthusiasts and stakeholders, with detailed recordings of the sessions accessible for broader audience engagement. Zoom recordings of the conference sessions are available through these Day 1a and Day 1b links, with passcodes provided for access. Equally beneficial are the recordings from Day 2a and Day 2b, which contain substantial information from the second day of the event.

For those seeking further knowledge or event highlights, additional conference information can be found here.

About U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition

The U.S High Speed Rail Coalition works tirelessly as a driving force, mobilizing key unions, companies, and public servants to advance investments and policies vital for realizing high-speed rail projects in America. With vigorous advocacy, the coalition has been at the forefront of obtaining funds for leading projects like Brightline West, California High Speed Rail, and other significant ventures in recent years.

This gathering of minds and expertise stands as a testament to the invisible threads connecting the dream of American high-speed rail to on-the-ground realities. As leaders, thinkers, and innovators solidify their commitments, America stands on the cusp of a transportation revolution, poised to embrace the speed and efficiency of high-speed rail within its vast landscapes.

For more insightful information regarding the coalition's activities and high-speed rail projects in general, interested parties can explore the resources provided by U.S High Speed Rail Coalition.

Looking Ahead

These gatherings and conferences set the stage for strategic development and policy enhancements crucial for a nationwide high-speed rail network's success. The collaboration between different sectors and the shared vision they pursue is a powerful demonstration of the combined efforts required to move America into an era of modern, efficient, and environmentally-friendly transportation.

As it stands, the confluence of political will, technological advancements, and strategic planning marks a defining moment in U.S. transit history. Continuous discourse and the active conversion of these ideas into tangible realities signify the potential for a redefined American transportation narrative—one that sees bullet trains seamlessly integrated into the daily lives of its citizens.

Guided by the insight from high-ranking officials, industry experts, and the successful rail systems of other nations, America is charting a course toward an interconnected future, one where high-speed rail is as intrinsic to the American commute as highways were to the past century. With every step forward, the United States inches closer to realizing a vision that promises a sustainable, accessible, and revolutionary mode of travel for all.

SOURCE: US High Speed Rail Association

*Please note that all Zoom session recordings and the links to the conference sites are intended solely for informational purposes, aiming to enhance public accessibility and understanding of the ongoing high-speed rail developments.