September 14, 2021

Moulton Quest for High-Speed Rail Nears Destination

The next three weeks are make-or-break for Moulton’s 1.5 year effort to bring American high-speed rail from a pipe dream to a federally-funded project

WASHINGTON–This week, Congress returns from a committee work period and turns its attention to two major infrastructure bills. The House version of a bill that will be the subject of intense negotiations between lawmakers includes $10 billion in funding for high-speed rail. The bill also singles-out projects that will speed up American trains so they can begin to approach the speed and efficiency of high-speed rail lines in operation around the world. If lawmakers successfully pass the bills and the high-speed rail pieces survive the negotiations, it will successfully end a one-and-a-half year quest from Congressman Seth Moulton to turn high-speed rail from a pipe dream into reality.

Moulton said: “For a long time, if you were a supporter of high-speed rail, people would listen politely, agree...and then say it will never happen. But whether you care about climate change, economic development, or simply spending our limited transportation dollars more wisely, high-speed rail is the answer throughout most of the country. Every American deserves the freedom to travel comfortably and effortlessly at 200 mph from city to city and town to town if they want to, just like the rest of the developed world. We should all be able to get the best jobs, and still be home in time for dinner, or safely visit our relatives over the holidays without a weather delay—ever. For the last year and a half, I’ve built partnerships, worked with advocates, and talked to anyone who will listen—including the White House. We are so close, and I want everyone who has joined the effort to put in one last push. Let’s get this done.” 

BACKGROUND:

Moulton’s connection to high-speed rail spans more than a decade. After leaving the Marines, he spent a semester at Harvard Business School conducting a critical business analysis of high-speed rail. Upon graduation but before running for Congress, he served as Managing Director of a high-speed rail project in Texas.

In 2020, he released a white paper that called for $205 billion in federal investment in high-speed rail over the next five years and issued several prescriptions for improving America’s existing railways. Coverage of the plan in a Wired article by Aarian Marshall said:

ACCUSE REPRESENTATIVE SETH Moulton of loving trains too much at your peril. Yes, the Massachusetts Democrat worked for a time on a high-speed-rail project in Texas, one that is now finally inching toward a groundbreaking ceremony. He’s pressed for a new rail tunnel in Boston. He’s a booster for commuter rail. But ask him why he loves trains, and he’ll correct you, firmly. “It's not that I just like trains so much,” he says. “We should have a transportation system that’s balanced and gives people options.”

In March, Moulton introduced the American High-Speed Rail Act, the bill that turned the recommendations from his whitepaper into policy. The legislation that the Congress is debating this week includes key pieces of Moulton’s American High-Speed Rail Act. It refocuses development on high-speed rail systems that could meet international standards and will shorten travel times.  And while it does not include $205 billion in high-speed rail funds, if the $10 billion makes it to the president’s desk, America’s first high-speed rail line could become a reality.

Moulton has spent the last year advocating for high-speed rail in the infrastructure bill. He has held rallies with leading lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and climate activists who support high-speed rail because of its unique ability to fight climate change, and the Teamsters Rail Conference who recognize high-speed rail’s potential to transform the economy and provide good-paying, union jobs.

He’s made the case to the business community both in Massachusetts, at the New England Council, and nationwide, frequently pointing out that high-speed rail could also transform the shipping industry by getting high-value goods to market faster, more reliably, and more affordably.

He helped build a coalition of partners including the Teamsters and U.S. High Speed Rail Coalition who endorsed his bill, the Green New Deal Network who amplified his work, and more—from the business community to former secretaries of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He’s also built a coalition of more than 80 lawmakers including Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), and Chair Suzan DelBene (D-WA) of the New Democrats Coalition, which endorsed his bill, to push for rail’s inclusion in the current negotiations. 

More about the plan is available here.




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