James. P. Kolb, staff director, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., said the Democrats had issues with transit not being paid from the trust fund, which Republicans proposed. He highlighted the $10 million put in for TOD projects, as well as the major expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
Answers given to questions from APTA members left the general impression that where funding came from and how much funding was necessary were the biggest issues in constructing the bill. No one on the panel gave a definitive answer in regards to what will be done when the bill nears expiration.
California will become home to the nation's first true high-speed rail system (HSR) with the signing of a law by Governor Jerry Brown authorizing the first leg of construction for a line that will eventually connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. "What's Next for High-Speed Rail in the U.S.?" covered ways in which to make California the catalyst for a national program. The session was moderated by David J. Carol, market leader, high speed rail, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Charlotte, N.C., and also sponsored by Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Panelists included David L. Borger, P.E., senior vice president, National Transportation Group-Transit Facilities, STV Inc., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Carrie Pourvahidi, director of transit and rail — West Region, T.Y. Lin International, Inc., San Francisco, Calif.; Olivier Picq, transport planning director — Major International Projects Division, SNCF — French National Railway, Paris, France; Kimmo Oostermeijer, director, LeighFisher, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Kent Rowey, partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, New York, N.Y.
According to the panel, there is $10 billion available right now for HSR projects in various states. Things the United States can learn from Europe when it comes to HSR were discussed, with panelists suggesting the need to have a clear vision and concise project, and to take into account politics and resources available when planning HSR projects. The importance of early planning and a defined approach were also covered. Picq commented that the U.S. is where France was 30 years ago in regards to HSR. The panel also stressed the need to pick projects that can start quickly so the public can see the progress and to showcase the project by demonstrating the need and functions of HSR. According to the panel, one of the biggest challenges in getting the current HSR project in California started was selling the project to voters and government officials.