“I do believe that we can learn a lot from the French, and other countries that have operated high speed rail for many years,” Florida Rep. Corrine Brown said in Tampa yesterday at a meeting of high-speed rail supporters. These TGVs were at rest in St. Charles Station, Marseille, in May 2005.
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) was a speaker yesterday in Tampa at a high-speed rail event.
The Florida DOT through its Florida Rail Enterprise hosted a regional high speed rail briefing for the Florida Congressional delegation and other elected officials within the project corridor at the Tampa Convention Center.
The Jacksonville resident chairs the House subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. She is also a supporter of high speed rail.
She told the gathering, “Certainly, Rail in America is experiencing a renaissance we haven’t seen in 50 years. For me, as the Chair of the Rail subcommittee, my goal is to have high-speed, intercity passenger, and commuter rail lines connecting throughout the nation. This system will serve as an improved next generation to our current modes of transportation.
Brown said, “Our Committee has hit the rails, and is engaging in a national dialogue with America about the future of the U.S. transportation system with Whistle Stop Tours across the country. We held events on the East Coast, Midwest, and I plan to take the train out to the West Coast later this year, to promote passenger, freight and high speed rail throughout America.”
Offering a history lesson, she said, “Several years ago our subcommittee held a hearing with international operators of high-speed rail. Their advice was to get a high speed line operating, and once everyone saw it working they would want it for their area. Right here in Florida today, we are making that happen.”
She added, “being from Florida, I was more than happy to see that our state was one of the first designated high-speed rail corridors to receive construction funding – the Tampa-Orlando line. The state has had 22 companies express interest in operating their new high speed rail system, and is eager to start putting people to work in constructing and operating high-speed rail.”
The fast trains will eventually continue on to Miami.
“Tampa is a great place to hold today’s event because it is a perfect location for high-speed rail. Indeed, every possible mode of transportation is available in Tampa and could easily connect to high-speed rails, moving passengers throughout the state in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.”
She said foreign railroaders view the U.S. freight rail system as the best in the world, but its passenger operations leave a lot to be desired.
“When I travel around the world, the same thing happens everywhere. I get asked about our freight rail system, which is the best in the world, and I ask about high-speed and passenger rail, which is currently very limited in the U.S. There is no doubt that increasing the use of passenger and freight rail is the best way for our nation to address the environmental and energy related challenges we face today. Freight railroads, for example, have made major gains in fuel efficiency through training and improved locomotive technology. Indeed, a single intermodal train can take up to 280 trucks off our highways, and one gallon of diesel fuel can move a ton of freight an average of 414 miles, a 76 percent improvement since 1980; while General Electric has recently unveiled the world’s first hybrid locomotive.”
Brown added, “Passenger rail’s ability to reduce congestion is well known, and their ridership numbers are increasing steadily each year.”
Amtrak is the nation’s intercity passenger rail system, and various commuter rail lines scattered around the country carry people to and from work on a limited scale.
“One full passenger train can take 250-350 cars off the roads. Passenger rail also consumes much less energy than automobiles and commercial airlines.”
Gulf of Mexico oil was also on her mind.
“As we are seeing with the horrific oil spill on our Gulf Coast, with estimates of 5,000 barrels floating out to sea every day, it is clear we need a new way of doing things in the transportation arena.”
She said France had a good idea about fast trains.
“I do believe that we can learn a lot from the French, and other countries that have operated high speed rail for many years. The French TGV is one of my favorite high speed rail systems. My first ride on high speed rail was from Paris to Lyon. Since that time I have ridden many of the lines in France along with high speed rail systems in England, Germany, Italy and Spain. And I’m sure I’m one of the few people here today who have had the great privilege of actually driving a TGV train.”
Like most politicians of any persuasion, she is concerned with creating jobs.
“One great opportunity that will come from this new funding will be the ability to establish the production of high-speed rail engines and cars right here in the U.S. We can replace many of the manufacturing jobs that are quickly disappearing in this country with well-paying jobs building new locomotives and passenger cars in America – and I believe we can learn from and partner with countries like France who have the know-how to operate and build high speed rail.”
She turned toward money topics.
“I always assure everyone that the $8 billion in the Recovery Act was just a down payment and that there will be more planning and construction dollars coming in the near future, but we need to get serious about funding high-speed rail. With just $1 billion budgeted for Fiscal Year 2011, we need to find a dedicated revenue source so that states, operators, and manufacturers aren’t afraid to make investments in infrastructure and manpower.”
She sent a letter to the President.
“I feel so passionately about this that I spearheaded a letter that over 100 members signed to President Obama requesting that he include a dedicated source of revenue for high-speed rail in the transportation reauthorization policy objectives that the Administration is developing,” and she added, “We still have a lot to do before the first passengers board high-speed trains in the U.S., but we are off to a great start with the investment made in the Recovery Act.”
Last updated at 12:35 p.m., July 21, 2010.