Two hundred miles-per-hour trains can whisk people from Eugene to Portland in 35 minutes. Sen. Ron Wyden and others told the Eugene Chamber that high speed rail tackles many policy issues. From the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, Andy Kunz.
Andy Kunz: [00:00:18] We need jobs. We need economic development. We need climate solutions. We need new mobility. This touches all of them simultaneously. That’s why we call it a silver bullet technology, cause it’s almost magical in how many different things it will do at the same time with a single investment.
John Q: [00:00:34] On the advisory board for high speed rail, Keith Wilson.
Keith Wilson: [00:00:39] To give some context, as far as high-speed rail, and its history, it began in Japan in 1964, but today in China, they have the largest network, now at about 20,000 total miles. It is in 16 countries. It is in some of the smaller countries in the world. Morocco with one half of 1% of our GDP has high-speed rail. And it’s currently being developed in 20 additional countries. The United States is one of the last industrialized, certainly the largest, countries without high speed rail.
Complete transportation system consists of a range of modes, all working together, each operating in their most efficient segment. But in the United States, the rail link is missing. And what we do is we’re challenged and we overload our aviation and our road system. It’s just not sustainable. We cannot continue to build our way out of and, or create more efficiency, by building roads. It’s essentially the hardening of our nation’s artery, where our quality of life is not being improved.
And one of the factors of climate change is emissions. And our transportation segment in Oregon, our goal was to emit 51 million metric tons of carbon this year. And actuality, it’s going to be 64 million metric tons or 26% above our goal. And so that’s what we’re advocating for is when we look at the overall benefits at 22 grams per passenger mile, when compared to the other two, it’s a 10th of the emissions.
And more importantly, as far as our economic activity or quality of life, we can move between Portland and Seattle in one hour versus the trip time that we’ll take in the other two modes.
The real extraordinary part is, is that high-speed rail not only just builds growth throughout an economic center, but throughout the entire region. it decreases regional disparities. It’s spreads the wealth out over an entire region. It bridges the urban rural divide by spreading that wealth out, across a larger area. And it creates tens of thousands of affordable housing opportunities. And one of the things that drew me to this project primarily was the ability to add high, affordable housing to our smaller communities like Independence, Junction City, Silverton. It would add this wonderful place-making opportunity where imagine the central part of Eugene with transit oriented design, having the rail keyed in there, building these dense walkable community that really weave our communities back together, instead of being so road centric.
John Q: [00:03:15] The current Senate bill does not provide enough funding. Advocates hope for a better outcome this fall, when the Senate meets with the House to reconcile their bills. Andy Kunz.
Andy Kunz: [00:03:26] We really had high hopes for the bi-partisan infrastructure program. It was really what Rep. DeFazio had worked so hard on, uh, in the House to provide, uh, that template. He had been working for years and then the bi-partisan, uh, infrastructure framework that the president, it works on, he really explained, and we had a meeting with administration on Monday, they said it was about preserving our democracy because it’s been under threat this last many years, he had to move that through. And so we don’t have the high speed rail funding we had hoped. It was $12 billion. It’ll do some great plans, but it won’t build a network. So our focus right now is in reconciliation.
John Q : [00:04:06] Keith asked Sen. Wyden about that process.
Keith Wilson: [00:04:09] How do you see reconciliation playing out? How do we really make a meaningful investment in that next, truly transformative rail system that the president envisions?
Sen. Ron Wyden: [00:04:20] Keith, as you know, the Speaker of the House has said that she’s going to tie the bipartisan bill with the reconciliation bill. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take out a sharp pencil to make sure that as these two bills interconnect in the fall, because that’s what I’ve said. And by the way, the reconciliation bill is also going to have a heavy emphasis on areas like childcare, because if you make investments in infrastructure like the Cascadia corridor, it might mean that when a parent goes on that two-hour ride, they can tap an opportunity for a, very exciting new job, a high skill, high wage job.
You can’t really have big league quality of life and big league job creation with Little League infrastructure.
Andy Kunz: [00:05:21] What it will do for the region is incredible. I mean, the studies have already shown the enormous economic benefits, it will literally create jobs, uh, throughout the economy, not just in construction, but it will stimulate tourism, it will stimulate real estate development, it will stimulate the idea of being able to relocate to a more affordable place, but to still have access to the great jobs in the hot job markets, because the commute, what might take an hour or two or more in a car, and is not predictable, on a train it’s predictable and it’s usually only 20 minutes, 30 minutes and it’s clockwork every day. Those trains are on extremely tight schedules. That’s how they operate all over the world. So these are the kinds of systems that you can actually set your watch by and count on, and, and literally change your life around.
Like I said, you can get jobs in different places, housing in different places. You have the opportunity to go for quick trips to concerts, to sporting events in other cities that would be normally too far away or take too long to get there by car but by train, it’s a quick trip. You go to an event, have dinner, visit friends, whatever, and come back the same evening on the train. And that’s something that people can do on a regular basis.
John Q: [00:06:38] The “Committed To Community” session was moderated by Chamber President Brittany Quick-Warner.