TCU representatives were out in force at a series of workshops sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration to launch President Obama’s high speed rail initiative. TCU’s message was loud and clear: Amtrak, with its unionized workers, should be the operator of choice for new high speed rail service all over the country.
TCU Assistant International Representative Jack Dinsdale attended the Seattle and California workshops, Assistant International Representative Nathan White attended the Orlando and Chicago workshops, Lodge 2503 Vice President Rob Burnett attended the one in Houston, and TCU Lodge 1351 Chairman Chad Trainer attended the seventh and final workshop in Philadelphia. Workshops were often standing room only, indicating the interest that President Obama’s unprecedented initiative on high speed rail has generated.
Everyone who attended the workshops commented on the high hopes and energy in the rooms. The definition for “high-speed” rail at these conferences was rail service that operates at a speed of at least 110 miles per hour over a corridor ranging between one-hundred and six-hundred miles in length. This would be a dramatic improvement of the systems currently operating in the suggested high speed passenger rail corridors.
Faster systems, like the existing ones in Europe and Japan, would require many billions more to construct than the $8 billion authorized in the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The faster systems would require dedicated rights-of-way, and it would take years before service was available.
That’s why the current efforts are focused to incrementally achieve increases in frequency and speed to 110 miles per hour. Existing rights of way could be upgraded quickly to get to those speeds, and Amtrak is the logical provider, although it is expected that a host of new operators may emerge to bid as states ready their proposals.
TCU participants at the workshops stressed that Amtrak’s seasoned workforce had the expertise and commitment to provide the best service.
The focus now will turn to the states.
The FRA will release the rules for applying for ARRA-funded programs on or about June 18. Proposals from the states will be expected by August/September, the FRA has said.
A coalition of rail labor unions including TCU submitted comments for the FRA to include in the guidelines and proposals. Rail labor stressed that the FRA’s guidelines for proposals must include worker protection, and a requirement that all new service be covered under laws governing rail carriers, including railroad retirement.
The “Vision For High Speed Rail in America” documents distributed at these workshops can be found on the High Speed Rail Updates page of the TCU website.
Click here to go the High Speed Rail Update page.