[IMAGE]szabo.jpg[/IMAGE]Last week, approximately 500 decision-makers attended three regional seminars — Washington, D.C.; Chicago and Los Angeles - on high-speed rail organized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the International Union of Railways (UIC), which included experts from around the world sharing their experience and knowledge, and FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo and FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae as keynote speakers.
The three high-speed regional workshops are the first set of seminars developed under a new partnership between APTA and UIC. The two groups signed a memorandum of understanding to work together in extensive information-sharing, covering the various technical, finance and management aspects of planning, building and operating high-speed rail systems.
"Each seminar was the equivalent of a graduate-level course in high-speed rail," said APTA President William Millar. "The first high-speed rail line was launched in Japan over 45 years ago, and there are 12 countries that operate high-speed rail systems today. The experience of UIC and the international high-speed rail experts is invaluable to the United States as we implement and adapt high-speed rail to our operating environment."
During his keynote speech in Los Angeles, Federal Railroad Administrator Szabo said that high-speed rail was a "once in a lifetime opportunity to change the way American's travel." Szabo also discussed the projects that received $8 billion in government funds and the points of focus for the upcoming National Rail Plan, as well as the importance for freight and passenger rail to work together for mutual success.
Other notable speakers during the three separate seminars, included Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill); Chicago Mayor Richard Daley; Anaheim, Calif. Mayor Curt Pringle; Frank Busalacchi, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; and David Crane, special advisor to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While discussing the importance for a high-speed rail system and his excitement about its possibilities during a roundtable interview, APTA's Millar likened the upcoming rail plan as what it must have felt like in the 1950s when the U.S. embarked on creating a highway system or how NASA felt in the 1960s when they were sending men to the moon.
APTA and UIC developed the three regional seminars to provide U.S. decision-makers with the information necessary to implement high-speed rail. The seminars, titled "International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States," gave participants a comprehensive overview of what it will take to build and operate high- and higher-speed rail systems in the U.S. and the planning and operational models that exist around the world.