KANSAS CITY, Mo. — “America takes its first step toward transforming its transportation system,” said HNTB Corporation’s Peter Gertler in response to President Barack Obama’s announcement allocating $8 billion to high-speed rail projects across the country.
Gertler, high-speed rail services chair for the national infrastructure firm, said these projects – along current and proposed rail lines in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere – will yield significant benefits to the recipient states and regions. “Even in the short-term, such an investment will spur construction, create jobs and boost local transit systems. In the future, this valuable new choice for the traveling public will reduce dependence on foreign oil, promote more livable communities and help us become a greener nation.”
President Obama has called such infrastructure funding – through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created. In his speech today, the president said such investments offer a “two-fer,” by creating jobs immediately and laying the foundation for a vibrant economy in the future.
“Yet this is just the first step,” Gertler said. “To keep the momentum going, Congress should consider a dedicated funding program for high-speed rail as part of a new surface transportation bill.” Earlier today, the president and vice president also emphasized that a high-speed rail system will be expensive, and this initial funding will serve to seed corridors where it can make the most difference. “We can secure the long-term health of our transportation system,” Gertler added, “improving America’s economy as well as its mobility.”
HNTB has worked with states and transportation authorities for many years to advance the prospect of high-speed rail in America. “It’s exhilarating to see our country finally make a down payment on a world-class, multi-corridor high-speed rail program,” Gertler said.
He added that leveraging these initial federal dollars will enable the nation’s first high-speed trains to be operational by 2015, with additional lines opening up by 2020.
According to the firm’s America THINKS survey series, more than half (54 percent) of Americans would choose high-speed rail over other modes of transportation if fares and travel time were about equal.