Progress on the American High-Speed Rail Act

Seth Moulton (MA-06), who is serving in the US House of Representatives, introduced the American High-Speed Rail Act, which proposes to invest 205 billion USD from federal funds into the country’s high-speed rail infrastructure.

Representatives Brendan Boyle (PA-02) and Suzan DelBene (WA-01) joined as original sponsors.

Seth Moulton said:

“High-speed rail is faster, cleaner, safer and better for our economy. It will connect people to more jobs in new places, give Americans freedom and choice in how they travel, and put us on par with the rest of the world. This bill is the plan that will get us there.

“We spend vast amounts of money subsidizing planes, which are delayed by weather, and roads, which are crumbling nationwide. We have the chance coming out of this pandemic to think big and think differently. Let’s not waste the opportunity.”

Back in May Moulton released a 30-page white paper outlining his vision for creating an American high-speed rail network and the benefits of pursuing this strategy.

Key Points of the American High-Speed Rail Act

  • 41 billion USD annual investment in high-speed and higher-speed rail infrastructure through grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration over a period of five years, with incentives for 38 billion USD or more in non-federal funding
  • An expansion of metrics used by states and cities for transport planning to include the potential wider economic benefits that such projects bring as well as the direct, important economic and environmental factors they are currently required to consider
  • The creation of funding flexibility and transit-oriented development incentives for non-federal partners
  • The development of comprehensive and performance-based safety regulations and standards for high-speed rail

The Act’s Expected Benefits

  • Economic centres would be better connected along high-speed rail corridors to boost productivity and international competitiveness
  • A co-ordinated national transportation strategy to encourage modal shift
  • The provision of a clean, reliable and safe mode of transport for intercity connections
  • An increase in US competitiveness in light of China’s use of high-speed rail in its Belt and Road Initiative
  • The creation of new American industries

This is not Moulton’s first policy proposal to push for better railroad infrastructure. He recently was involved in making more than 1 billion USD available to rail transportation via the CARES Act, of which 492 million USD went to the Northeast Corridor. He also endorsed the North South Rail Link for the Boston area, for which he commissioned the Harvard Kennedy School study that found that it cost Massachusetts residents 64 billion USD annually to sit in traffic regardless of whether or not they owned a car.

Prior to his political career he worked for Texas Central Railway.

Moulton's co-sponsor Rep. Suzan DelBene said about the act:

“Building a national high-speed rail system would not only reinvigorate the American transportation system but also support our local economy at a critical time. As we recover from dual public health and economic crises, an infrastructure project of this size would create millions of new jobs while investing in cutting-edge, green technology and building a path to new technology and innovation hubs across the country. I am excited to introduce this bill with my colleague Rep. Seth Moulton and work with the Biden administration on developing a stronger high-speed rail system.”

The response from major rolling stock manufacturers such as Stadler, Hitachi, Alstom and Siemens Mobility was also positive. The bill was further welcomed by the US High-Speed Rail Association, Texas Central, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the Railway Supply Institute, the High-Speed Rail Alliance and the Rail Passengers Association.

Jim Mathews, President and CEO, Rail Passengers Association, said:

“Here, finally, is a plan for passenger rail in America that rivals the ambition of President Eisenhower’s vision for highways in the 1950s. Congressman Moulton has put forth a blueprint for a national passenger rail network that stops the long, slow decline of our country’s transportation infrastructure, bringing economic growth and opportunity outside of a handful of ‘superstar cities’ to the rest of America’s cities and towns. For too long passengers have had to fight for scraps of funding on the periphery of the transportation policy debate; Moulton’s national high-speed rail plan moves trains to the center of that debate with an ambition not seen in U.S. infrastructure in generations.”

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