According to President Barack Obama’s administration, the northeast corridor will get a high-speed train — and according to Penn alumnus and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Penn’s School of Design might have something to do with it.
On Sept. 16, PennDesign Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor, design professor Bob Yaro and 10 graduate students visited Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., to present the product of a seminar on high-speed rail systems, according to Taylor.
Among those instrumental in arranging the meeting with Biden was Rendell, who said he first heard of the project in a newspaper.
“I read the story about the design, and that the kids had been trying to set up an appointment with me and were unsuccessful — so I called my scheduler and told her to get them in,” Rendell said.
The students’ proposal was to “add two dedicated HSR tracks from Washington to Boston, mostly within the existing rail rights of way, interstate highway medians, and utility corridors,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail.
After laying out a route mile by mile, the students came up with an estimated $98 billion cost — which sounds reasonable since “Amtrak’s master plan had called for spending half that amount” to simply repair existing tracks, Taylor said.
The plan, which Taylor, Yaro and students worked on from January to May, “would transform the economic geography of the Northeast, creating enormous new economic opportunities for Philadelphia and other cities along this route,” Yaro wrote in an e-mail.
The presentation, Rendell said, was impressive. “I was blown away with how feasible and doable it was,” he said. According to him, the idea of two new dedicated lines is what made the presentation so “smart.”
The 160-miles-per-hour capacity of Amtrak’s high-speed Acela is never met “because all of the tracks that run on it curve … the kids understood that, and knew we needed a whole new rail system with direct tracks,” Rendell said.
He claimed that with a high-speed rail system, “no one would fly from Boston to D.C.,” reducing airport wait times. He added that once people see the viability of high speed rails, a Pittsburgh-Philadelphia rail would be possible as well.
According to recently graduated masters student Jeffrey Barg, one of the students that took the seminar, the Vice President was pleased with their project. “We didn’t even get to do our presentation before he just launched into questions of his own,” he said. Among the questions the Vice President asked, Barg said, were how much the project would cost the federal government and how to “sell the concept politically.”
“Let’s say eight states benefit from this, so 16 senators. But you still have 84 more to go,” Barg explained.
Barg said he and his fellow alumni from the class, most of whom now have full-time jobs, are “sort of doing this on the side.” However, everyone present at the meeting was excited, according to Barg.
“We recognize what a big deal it is and what a big accomplishment it is,” he said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.