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That was the message from Fielding Huseth of Maryland PIRG and Otis Rolley III, President and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. The two groups gathered today at Baltimore Penn Station to release The Right Track, a new research report released by Maryland PIRG.
The new report analyzes the potential of high speed rail in nine different regions, including the Northeast corridor, and presents eleven public-interest recommendations for how to spend high speed rail investments in the future. According to data cited in the report, the completion of a national high-speed rail network would reduce car travel by 29 million trips and air travel by nearly 500,000 flights annually.
Last month, the Obama administration announced that 31 states will receive a portion of $8 billion in funding to build and plan for high speed rail under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Maryland will receive nearly $70 million to advance engineering work and studies to replace the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel and construct a new BWI station and platform. Both investments will set up Amtrak to reduce travel time by an average of four minutes according to a 2009 Amtrak report.
“This project might one day be part of a national network of high speed rail on par with the bullet trains of Europe and Asia, but it is going to take a long-term commitment from all levels of government to plan and fund the system,” said Fielding Huseth. “Without such a commitment, this recent momentum could be lost. We simply cannot afford a false start on high speed rail.”
“The report points out that in the 50 years following the passage of the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 this country spent 16 times more on highways than rail,” said Otis Rolley III. “We built an interstate highway system that transformed daily life, commerce and reshaped our cities, suburbs and regions. In the 21st Century we need another transformational investment in transportation, and it should reduce congestion, help cut back on air and water pollution, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and improve choices for travel. Investing in intercity high-speed rail is a sound and necessary strategy. The $8 billion under ARRA is a good start. Let's make sure to build on that.”
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