Can we bring the Class 1 freight rail companies together to address their myriad of concerns, most especially indemnification from liability, to make passenger rail service and especially high-speed rail service in America a winning proposition for all concerned?
The Department of Transportation estimates that for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure development and maintenance, 20,000 jobs are created or retained. Additionally, according to the American Association of Railroads, each of those jobs support an additional 4.5 jobs in the general work force. But what are these jobs and how, given that most of the high-speed rail expertise in the world is found in Europe and Asia, will American workers be recruited and trained to operate America’s high-speed rail system?
The Department of Transportation has launched the Work Force Development initiative that aims to identify the needs of America’s transportation industry in the 21st Century. This effort will reach a milestone, but not the ultimate milestone, with a White House Conference on the Transportation Workforce of the 21st Century now being planned before the end of this year.
Even more important than a White House Conference, universities and other educational institutions, especially the DOT-sponsored University Transportation Centers, must initiate educational programs that will train and guide America’s 21st Century high-speed rail workforce.
Labor must be recruited to support the creation of training and retraining programs that will redirect the careers of American workers who have lost their jobs during this recession so that they may become highly compensated participants in America’s effort to rebuild its passenger rail system and ultimately build American high-speed rail.
The general public must be educated to understand that we are working now to meet the transportation needs of a future generation.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the American population will grow by at least 100 million between now and 2050. While some would suggest that, based on today’s practices, people will still prefer to drive everywhere, and that the grossly inadequate level of rail service today could not imaginably be improved in the future, reason would suggest that is not the case.
Changes in life styles, changes in energy sources and use, sensitivity over the environment, limits on how much can be done to continue building and maintaining other forms of overburdened, inefficient transportation and other societal needs will require the development of a transportation alternative like high-speed rail.
Climate and energy conditions dictate that we find and use transportation technologies that consume less non-renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint.
There is a very narrow window of opportunity here to build the momentum to get this job done. The conditions of our climate and fast paced issues of this world’s times dictate leadership and action that will serve generations to come with American high-speed rail.