Federal Railroad Administration’s Joseph C. Szabo

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address Mass Transit readers.

I am excited first and foremost about our current focus on passenger rail. After years of attention paid to the development of highways and airports, the president and Secretary LaHood have made an unprecedented commitment to the growth of passenger rail.

As many of you know, President Obama committed $8 billion in Recovery Act funds and $5 billion from his latest budget toward the development of high-speed and intercity passenger rail here in America. These funds are a down payment toward the long-term expansion of such a system. These efforts will, for the first time, lead to the integration of passenger rail corridors of 100 to 600 miles with the many other parts of our transportation network.

Moving ahead, we will build these corridors on a regional basis so that one day, millions of Americans will have seamless access to a network of airports, light rail stations, and robust urban centers, creating livable communities and stimulating new development.

We believe that congestion on the highways and roads that connect our cities and towns can be reduced through the expansion of these transportation alternatives. We also know that time is of the essence and are moving quickly to make these plans a reality. In less than a year, my agency has issued a High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan; held outreach sessions nationwide attended by more than a thousand people across the country, issued an interim guidance telling states how the high-speed program will work, and solicited applications for funding.

The response to our call for applications for Recovery Act funds has been tremendous. States are enthusiastic about our high-speed rail program and have drawn up impressive plans to remake the transportation landscape in their respective regions.

In the coming years, I expect to see states fully realizing the potential of high-speed and passenger rail. With assistance and guidance at the federal level, we hope that states will begin introducing new passenger rail services, upgrading the reliability, quality and frequency of existing service, and building the groundwork for truly high-speed rail service.

At the Federal Railroad Administration, we recognize that our current efforts are part of a larger movement, the creation of a rail renaissance in America. We look forward to

Joseph C. Szabo is the 12th Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator. Szabo is a fifth generation railroader and has worked as a yard switchman, road trainman and commuter-rail conductor. He held a number of senior positions with the United Transportation Union (UTU), including Illinois state legislative director. Szabo also served as mayor of Riverdale, Ill., and has been a board member of numerous civic organizations, focusing on transportation policy.