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Public Gets Its Say Today On Amtrak's Vision For High Speed Rail

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - SEPTA headquarters near 12th and Market was to be the site of a hearing this afternoon (from 4:30 to 7:30) into one of the boldest ideas on the horizon: high speed rail.

Amtrak released its 30-year vision several weeks back and later today the Federal Railroad Administration will engage in some give-and-take over what it might mean here.

Its impact here could be dramatic, said Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler, "The Mayor has been very active on making sure that there is an airport stop in the Amtrak Master Plan, and there is.  Connecting the Airport into Center City directly is a very exciting piece to this study, and I think the notion of a second stop in Philadelphia, somewhere downtown is well worth looking at."

A map of NEC Future's study area. (Credit: Federal Railroad Administration)

Cutler said the Mayor is committed to putting a stop at the airport. Also under consideration is, "A stop in Center City in the Market East corridor, and there are those who believe we should not consider having high speed rail anywhere but 30th Street, and no one is ever going to abandon 30th Street, but the notion of a second stop in Philadelphia is very attractive."

A potential Market East Station would run along a new sub-city tunnel that would cost billions.

"I don't think it's pie-in-the-sky," said Cutler, discussing the grand plan. "I recognize that there are a lot of people who think that we cannot afford this.  I'm sort of taking the opposite view, which is we can't afford not to look at this."

Deputy Mayor Cutler said high speed rail would change the paradigm of how we travel. "You usually fly to Boston from here, train to New York and DC.  All of those notions and assumptions would change if high speed rail really comes to the Northeast Corridor."

Today's hearing is one small step in a long process.

For more information on the proposal, click here.

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