In order for the U.S. to insure a faster recovery from the current severe recession, as well as foster a more proactive strategy to reduce its dependency on foreign oil, it must invest in and deploy a more efficient transportation network that serves multiple needs, both commerce and people-related.   President Obama and his administration have certainly understood this need, but it seems that some U.S. legislators have different perspectives of priorities.  More on that later.

The U.S. is very late in the game regarding the technology and knowledge to deploy and operate efficient multipurpose networks. I’ve pointed to two lessons that I feel should be factored within an overall strategy:

  • 1) A revised U.S. transportation network needs to serve multiple purposes, so first outline a set of agreed-to design principles that layout the strategic needs, purposes and tactical timeline for this network. Make this plan highly visible through the Internet and other means.
  • 2) A world-class network most likely needs to be deployed on an aggressive timeline, so go to the experts who have proven experience in such networks. U.S. transportation leaders therefore need to seek out both U.S. and non-U.S. companies who have demonstrated the proven experience in the design and construction of high speed rail and transportation networks.

In a past posting, I shared some observations regarding the challenges in one component of this overall plan, the planned deployment of a world-class high speed rail network in the U.S.  The U.S. government stimulus program allocates $8 billion in capital to build high speed rail corridors and $1 billion a year, over the next five years, in continuing investments in infrastructure and equipment. 

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Europe Listens for U.S. Train Whistle) observes how Europe’s engineering and rail companies are  lining up for the chance to participate in lucrative U.S. contracts.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was traveling throughout Europe last week sampling the operation of Europe’s rail networks, as well as speaking to many of these interested vendors. This week, a delegation led by French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau will travel to the U.S., and other country delegations such as Canada will continue to follow.  The voters of California have already approved a $10 billion bond issue to fund a rail link between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In my part two post, I will share what I heard at a recent CSCP luncheon meeting held in the Boston area, where U.S. Congressmen and a state level Secretary of Transportation eloquently addressed some of these issues.

What’s your viewpoint?  Can the U.S. plan a comprehensive transportation network, or instead play to “the survivor” game of  lobbyist influence?

Bob Ferrari