In 2009, President Obama, together with Vice President Biden and Secretary of Transportation LaHood, articulated a new “Vision for High-Speed Rail in America”. The High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program implements that vision, which includes a goal to bolster American passenger rail expertise and resources. In order to achieve this goal, the Alliance advocates drawing on the best practices from around the world that have proven technology and high speed systems in revenue service.
Adapting safety standards and interoperability solutions of proven systems
In accordance with our mission, the Alliance strongly supports a safe and reliable high speed rail system. Therefore, in February 2011, the Alliance wrote to FRA Administrator Joe Szabo to express concern over the direction of the RSAC High Speed Rail Engineering Task Force under the FRA in developing the next generation of standards. It appears that the FRA Office of Safety and their consultant may be moving back to the approach that developed the original Tier 1 and Tier 2 standards that focused solely on crash worthiness and not on crash avoidance. This could negatively impact high speed rail development and implementation in the United States and lead to heavier more expensive solutions that may not necessarily provide the overall safety benefits the FRA desires. Click here for AHSRA’s letter to Administrator Joe Szabo.
Today, there is no high speed rail manufacturing base in the United States. AHSRA supports an aggressive program to ensure that the vast majority of manufacturing supporting HSIPR in the United States is done in America. However, the 100% Buy America requirements established by the US Department of Transportation are not yet realistic. AHSRA supports a phased approach with Buy America requirements increasing over time and with the addition of the increased federal funding necessary to sustain a domestic market.
In addition, a common sense step Congress could take to promote the cost-effective development of transportation services is the harmonization of conflicting provisions within the Buy America rules for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Amtrak, and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to the extent this is feasible. These rules frequently create differing requirements for companies making similar equipment in the same factories – one aggressive yet reasonable harmonized Buy America standard across the USDOT would allow these companies to more cost-effectively produce the infrastructure and rolling stock materials demanded by federally supported rail agencies, and would allow the United States to achieve the national policy goal of creating a vibrant domestic rail manufacturing industry based upon a common Buy America criteria.
Working with Rail Labor
Rail labor is a critical component to the development of a high speed rail manufacturing base. High speed rail development means high paying jobs in manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance. Our Advisory Board includes several of the largest transportation unions in the country. We are committed to working with our fellow members to address the potential for the rail industry to be a significant engine for job creation.
The Alliance supports stimulating infrastructure development and technological advancement though tax incentives. The Alliance is developing a proposal that would create tax credits to support a high speed rail manufacturing base in the U.S. and a research and development tax credit for companies and universities to advance state-of-the-art technology in the U.S. and help develop the next generation of technologically advanced transportation professionals.