High-speed rail consultant Gertler: Funding key to Tampa-Orlando link
Wake up and good morning. The high-speed rail project connecting Tampa to Orlando is moving at, well, high speed. So it's tricky keeping up with what's happening and who are the players involved in making decisions about the rail line. Let's focus briefly on one person with a big role in the Florida high-speed rail project who's been flying under the Tampa Bay radar.
His name? Peter Gertler. He's the high-speed rail services chairman of HNTB, an engineering and construction management company based in Kansas City, Mo. He says, correctly, in a recent newspaper story that Florida is likely to have a high-speed rail line operating first, perhaps by 2015, because about 95 percent of the right of way has been acquired between Orlando and Tampa Bay. Gertler's HNTB is managing the Florida program for the state’s Department of Transportation and is also involved in engineering and environmental work for California's planned line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Here's is a short essay by Gertler outlining his general views on the promise of high-speed rail.
In a recent New York Times interview, Gertler said id that one key to funding rail projects will be consistent spending from the federal government. He sees a dedicated stream of funding, like the gasoline tax, which pays for highway maintenance. Said Gertler: "The biggest obstacle is a permanent, sustainable and secure source of funding into the future."
He also predicts that after things get rolling, the New York Times reports, "a bandwagon effect" will take hold, even in the United States. Once people see a high-speed rail system up and operating, "everybody will want to develop one." Here is the New York Times story.
And here's Gertler in an earlier Bloomberg Radio interview talking about high-speed rail. He talks about the potential of high-speed rail, cites the jobs it will create and defends the ongoing costs that will need to be funded -- including, he says, the possible use of private investment in Florida.
We'll continue to profile the many players who will have a hand in the high-speed rail project now under way.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist