Happening Now

Moulton Leads Again On High-Speed Rail

March 15, 2024

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

In case you missed it, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) has re-introduced his American High Speed Rail Act, alongside Washington State’s Rep. Suzan DelBene (D), and this time I’m happy to report that the measure has 25 co-sponsors out of the gate and is enjoying a lot more buzz than it once did.

H.R. 7600, introduced this week, was referred to both the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and House Committee on Ways and Means. The bill would not only invest $41 billion per year over a five-year period, but incentivize another $38 billion in private-capital investment while lowering costs and speeding project delivery.

"We spend vast amounts of money subsidizing planes, which are delayed by weather, and roads, which are crumbling nationwide,” Moulton said in a prepared statement. “We have the chance to think big and think differently.”

His 2020 white paper outlining his high-speed plan is simultaneously visionary and achievable – if we just decide it’s important enough to tackle the challenge.

When we were asked in advance of this re-introduction whether we would lend our support, the answer from me was a quick and enthusiastic “Yes!” The reasons center on many of the points he raised in his 2020 white paper. I am especially supportive of Rep. Moulton’s creative policy innovations in H.R. 7600 aimed at encouraging public-private partnerships and unshackling our country’s private-sector capacity.

Rep. Moulton (who I like to remind folks has been a member of our Association even before he was a elected to Congress) outlined a very American approach which by rights should draw bipartisan support. His argument was – and is – the essence of our own continuing case for Federal investment in passenger rail: in the United States, we traditionally spend taxpayer dollars to create the pre-conditions for the success of private capital. And this is no different.

“Given the fundamental efficiencies and competitive advantages of rail — so fundamental that American freight railroads continue to fund their own infrastructure while the American taxpayer foots the bill for all our roads — there is a strong argument for shifting a larger proportion of government transportation investment to rail, just as China has done,” Rep. Moulton said. “Such a bold move would make Eisenhower proud, but our politically fractured times make grand visions much more challenging.”

At a minimum, he argues, we need policies to level the playing field so that we don’t subsidize one travel mode disproportionately over others, blocking the emergence of cleaner, faster, and safer alternatives.

“In other words,” Rep. Moulton says, “let America’s free market thrive in next-century transportation and infrastructure by simply allowing high-speed rail and other 21st-century technologies to compete against older options.”

In my statement of support this week for H.R. 7600, I highlighted Rep. Moulton’s policy innovations, which some of the press coverage, sadly, overlooked.

Investing new Federal dollars, along with streamlining project delivery, allowing Federal benefit-cost evaluation standards to encompass the full range of rail investment’s benefits, and enacting tax incentives encouraging freight railroads to participate, will produce real results and progress. The American High Speed Rail Act will not only improve the experience of riders, it will also connect long-neglected communities to the economic benefits which fast, safe, efficient mobility brings.

Rep. Moulton’s leadership on this issue has been visionary and steadfast, and we support his efforts to give Americans the transportation network they deserve. We hope you do, too.