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Guest on The Infra Blog: Richard Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association

Posted by Steve Anderson on Monday, February 1st, 2016

Richard Harnish on The Infra BlogRichard Harnish is the Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA), a member-supported non-profit organization advocating for fast, frequent and dependable trains linking the entire Midwest.

Harnish is a leading creative force in the transportation policy reform movement, and his ideas are revolutionizing rail and transit advocacy. Through the MHSRA he has mobilized nearly 40,000 advocates, educated thousands of government and business leaders, and helped elevate high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail on the national stage.

Harnish co-founded MHSRA in 1993 and became its first executive director in February 2001 after leading a successful fundraising campaign. The Association is now the oldest and largest high-speed rail advocacy organization in the U.S.

People Finally See the Need for Trains
On the ground there is definitely a difference. I have been meeting with local leaders and communities all around the Midwest. I’ve been doing this now for 16 years, and when I first started it was kind of like, “Trains are OK; it would be nice if we had trains, but that’s kind of a pipe dream.” And now there is a clear recognition amongst lots of folks that it really is needed—especially as transportation options that we have continue to get worse…

The FAST Act: 5 More Years of the Status Quo
It’s frustrating that we continue with these policies that are so counter productive. Rather than figuring out how to get more people on bikes and more people into trains and buses and get the country headed in a much more productive, more enjoyable, safer environment, Congress kind of punted and decided to steal money from other places to keep the existing growth of highway networks moving forward.

High Speed Rail: Moving Forward Despite the Challenges
Here in Illinois we’ve been seeing a lot more interest in doing true high speed rail and we think we’re close to an important next step there. And I was out in Sacramento two months ago and touched the first car shell for that line. That’s something that most people don’t know: those trains really are under construction, and the stations are under construction. So we’re very close to a major tipping point.

Download full transcript (PDF): Richard Harnish on The Infra Blog

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