Putting America Back on the Fast Track: The Case for High-Speed Rail

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This complimentary webinar sponsored by Siemens features panelist: Pete Sklannik, Jr., M. ASCE, Vice-Chairman of ASCE's Transportation and Development Institute, Public Transportation Committee; Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orlando, FL; and Drew Galloway, Amtrak, Assistant Vice President of Policy and Development. The esteemed panelist, discuss the economic and environmental impact of High-Speed Rail. (32.33 min.)


Pete Sklannik, Jr., Vice-Chairman of T&DI's Public Transportation Committee was a key participant in a panel discussion that discussed the promise of job creation, economic development, and environmental improvements in a webinar sponsored by Siemens Mobility and presented by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, titled "Putting America Back on the Fast Track: The Case for High-Speed Rail."

Railway Age Editor William C. Vantuono, moderator of the session, said 74% of those responding to a pre-webinar poll stated on the highest HSR priority listed "all of the above" as their answer. Among the remainder, 8% cited job creation as HSR's highest priority; 11% selected economic development; and 7% environmental benefit.

Consensus was evident on several other HSR factors as well among the other panelists: Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orlando, Fla., and a leading proponent of Florida's Orlando-Tampa HSR project; Amtrak Assistant Vice President of Policy and Development Drew Galloway. Among other points, the three noted the value of integrating HSR with other regional/commuter rail and light rail alternatives, along with other modes. T&DI's Sklannik stressed the "feeder/distributor network" a mix of rail modes could offer to deliver "a true multimodal effect"—and a maximizing of investment flow that could "help reinvigorate local economies." That assertion in effect countered HSR critics who assert that the mode will have little beneficial economic impact. Amtrak's Galloway noted such successful implementation on the Northeast Corridor, while Mayor Dyer pointed to the support of and concurrent development in HSR and regional rail (SunRail) in the Orlando metropolitan area.

Each of the three panelists also advanced specific points of his own. For T&DI's Sklannik, public/private partnerships are likely a critical formula for most, if not all, U.S. high speed rail development to come. For Orlando Mayor Dyer, HSR funds must be specified and quantified in any renewal by Congress of a Surface Transportation Act—HSR has been omitted from previous measures. Amtrak's Galloway, responding to a question from Railway Age's Vantuono stressed that "higher-speed rail" (HrSR) must be a part of the U.S. mix to adjust not only to fiscal realities but to varying market sizes and city-pair distances, pointing to ongoing work on Union Pacific's route linking Chicago and St. Louis which will see 110 mph HrSR service.