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Today the Arizona PIRG Education Fund released its new report The Right Track: Building a 21st Century High Speed Rail System for America which quantifies the benefits of high speed rail and sets recommendations for future investment.
Recently, the Obama administration announced that 31 states will receive a portion of $8 billion in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to plan & build high speed rail. Arizona was not awarded any money in this most recent round of grants, although the state did receive $1 million from the Federal Railroad Administration in 2008 to begin design of a Phoenix-Tucson passenger rail line.
“A national network of fast, frequent and dependable trains is a critical tool for reinventing the nation's economy. Our state has previously recognized the need to greatly improve our rail system and now needs to be committed to building off of the momentum provided by the Administration,” said Jesse Victor, Transportation Associate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.
The Arizona PIRG Education Fund report analyzes the potential of high speed rail in nine different regions, including the Southwest. According to data cited in the report:
- The completion of a national high-speed rail network will curb congestion by reducing car travel by 29 million trips and air travel by nearly 500,000 flights annually.
- The task of building out the nation’s high speed passenger rail network is estimated to generate up to 1.6 million construction jobs, providing a needed shot in the arm for America’s manufacturing sector.
- A national high speed rail network will reduce global warming pollution by 6 billion pounds, the equivalent of taking almost a half a million cars off the road.
“The Phoenix area light rail represents a great step our state has taken toward a 21st century transportation solution to reduce the amount of time we spend in traffic, create jobs, reduce our dependence on oil and the pollution we spew into the air. As a mode of public transportation that has already proven far more popular than was even expected, Arizona decision makers must remain committed to ensuring rail’s continued success and expansion throughout our state,” Victor stated.
The report concludes with public interest recommendations for how to spend high speed rail investments including the need to invest adequate resources, maximizing “bang for the buck," assuring transparency, setting standards and measuring progress.
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