Monday, April 26, 2010

Implications of 3C, high-speed passenger rail subject of EACC conference

A renowned group of national and international business, governmental, and policy experts will gather in Cincinnati to discuss the implications of Ohio's 3C Corridor passenger rail project during the 2010 Urban and Regional Public Transportation Conference, to be hosted by the European-American Chamber of Commerce (EACC) on May 5 at the Westin Hotel.

Three panels will address issues specific to the high-speed rail discussion: economic development, from the local to the federal level; technology, performance, and environmental impact; and financial and operational models. (Please see full list of panelists below.)

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari will deliver the keynote speech. The event will conclude with a Supplier and Partner Expo and networking reception and a Gala Dinner featuring French Minister of Foreign Trade Anne-Marie Idrac.

'A well-balanced discussion'

Anne Cappel, Executive Director of the Cincinnati-based EACC, says that the panelists were carefully selected to bring the conference the best of American and European perspectives.

"EACC worked with a local team of well-connected industry executives who used their contacts in Washington and Europe to bring this unique group of presenters together," she says. "Speakers were selected for their expertise and ability to present a well-balanced discussion on the U.S. passenger rail situation from a federal, state and local perspective. European experts were chosen for their willingness to share their experiences and successes from decades of development and leadership."

Specifically, the panelists will frame the discussion around Ohio's project, a 256-mile passenger rail line connecting the cities of Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland. 3C's initial "Quick Start" service was awarded $400 million in federal ARRA funds in January and could be running as soon as 2012.

"The purpose of the EACC annual conference is to feature a key topic affecting the Greater Cincinnati region where European experience and expertise can play a key role," Cappel says. "The Obama administration's commitment to developing a national high speed rail network and their $400 million financial commitment to develop the 3C Ohio rail corridor, finalized our decision to bring European industry leaders to Cincinnati to share their success stories on the positive impact of high speed rail economically, socially and ecologically that they have experienced."

3C is seen as the centerpiece of the Ohio Hub, connecting with the proposed Midwest High Speed Rail Network and the dedicated Keystone and Empire corridors and opening up passenger rail to such markets as New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis and Toronto.

"A well-integrated regional rail passenger network linked to a larger Great Lakes network will be key to economic vitality," Cappel says. "While the long term benefits will be connecting distances where air travel makes less sense, decreasing the reliability on oil, and meeting the emission and pollution standards, the short term challenges will be to focus on developing a true high speed rail network where the benefits of train outweigh the benefits of flying and driving and to drive behavioral changes toward public transportation."

Isolation possible?

Nearly six million people live within 15 miles of the 3C route. Studies by Amtrak and the Ohio Rail Development Coalition estimate that the service will attract 478,000 riders annually and will attract 16,000 much-needed jobs.

"Letting the world pass us by is not an option for Ohio!" Cappel says. "Delays in developing the network will isolate Ohio."

And while Greater Cincinnati has been relatively successful in attracting foreign investment, the economic downturn and recent developments such as Delta's cuts in service at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport mean that the state must be as competitive as ever, she says.

"Recently we are experiencing a decrease of interest in our region," Cappel says. "Passenger transportation is key to a vibrant economy and plays a key role in European companies' decisions in selecting a state or region to invest in."

Admission prices for the conference, gala, or both range from $140 to $270 for EACC non-members and $125 to $230 for EACC members. Registration is required by 5 p.m., April 30.

Cappel says that attendees will leave with a greater understanding of the societal benefits that passenger rail transportation can produce.

"We expect attendees to be inspired by the collaborations that exist between European and U.S. passenger rail manufacturers and service providers to ensure that lesson learned in developing the European network can benefit the U.S.," she says.

Photo credit: "We are closed for business forever" courtesy of Flickr user PetroleumJelliffe, licensed Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic.

Full list of panelists for EACC's 2010 Urban and Regional Public Transportation Conference:

Previous reading on BC:
EACC to hold public transportation conference here (4/6/10)
Cincinnati to apply for federal transportation grants (4/1/10)
ORDC study: 26,000 Ohioans employed due to rail, with more to come (3/30/10)
Ohio rail groups propose $32 million for safer crossings (12/16/09)
State rail agencies studying development around six 'Quick Start' stations (12/7/09)