Weighing The Future Of High Speed Rail In America
It’s a familiar Washington scenario: a major new federal grant program is launched and soon a brand new constituency is born with an army of supplicants and lobbyists eager to secure a piece of the action. The Administration’s high speed rail initiative has been no exception. It has spawned a large and enthusiastic following. Two regional coalitions — the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition (IL, WI, IO, MN, MS, MI,IN, OH) and the Western High-Speed Rail Alliance (AZ, CO, NV, UT)– have entered the competition, supported by the umbrella States for Passenger Rail Coalition headed by Frank Busalacchi, Secretary of Wisconsin DOT. Also in the running are several statewide rail corridors including California, the sole state with a tangible high-speed rail project, having secured voters’ approval for a $10 billion bond measure. Cheering on the sidelines is the newly formed One Rail Coalition which includes many of the established rail-oriented lobbies such as the Associations of American Railroads (AAR), the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Railway Supply Institute.
Other members of the new constituency include foreign high-speed rail operators and equipment manufacturers; the domestic engineering and construction industries which are eyeing the program as a potential source of hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts; the green lobby; and just plain old railroad enthusiasts. They were all in evidence at the September 22-23 conference of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association– a new membership organization established specifically to “advocate, educate and support the development of a state-of-the-art national high speed rail network across America.”
What brought these disparate interests together was the lure of big money.