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America’s high-speed rail aspirations remain strong, survey says

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New America THINKS survey results from HNTB Corporation illustrate transit and passenger rail remain top of mind after the Obama administration's $8-billion high-speed rail grant announcement last month.

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Nearly nine in ten (88
percent) Americans are currently open to high-speed rail travel for
long-distance travel within the United States. While this is a strong majority,
that support is down slightly from the 94 percent America THINKS recorded in
March 2009.

"The time has come for
high-speed rail," said Peter Gertler, HNTB high-speed rail services chair.
"Stimulus money is seeding initial projects. It’ll be up to those of us in
the industry — working in partnership with transportation agencies and elected
officials — to keep up the momentum."

Gertler said such advocacy
efforts are crucial at a time general excitement about high-speed rail has
slowed. Americans were far more likely to choose high-speed rail over driving
or flying for a trip to a city in their region in March 2009 than February 2010
(54 percent versus 38 percent).

"The pain we all felt
when gasoline was hovering near $4 a gallon has receded," Gertler said.
"Yet we can’t stand by for the next crisis to hit to address the
underlying issues of congestion and our dependency on limited fossil
fuels."

While general interest may
have slowed, there’s still a great deal of support for passenger rail
enhancements overall. More than four in five (83 percent) Americans agree
public transit and high-speed rail infrastructure should receive a larger share
of federal funding than they do now.

"While our interstate
highways empowered economic growth and development during the last 50 years, we
can no longer simply build our way out of congestion and conservation
problems," Gertler said. "Establishing a long-term multi-modal transportation
vision that includes rail is crucial."

Liz Rao, HNTB national
public transit services chair, agreed. "The U.S. Department of
Transportation recently shifted its criteria when evaluating transit proposals
for federal funding to consider environmental and economic development benefits
as well as congestion relief. Such a focus will allow us to improve our
communities’ quality of life as well as make better use of limited
resources."

HNTB’s latest America
THINKS survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,007 Americans Feb. 1-7,
2010. The previous high-speed rail survey was conducted March 18-23, 2009. They
were conducted by Kelton Research, which used e-mail invitations and online
surveys. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the
total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

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