ORLANDO, Fla.-The future of the nation’s high speed rail system is on course as leaders from the U.S. High Speed Rail Association (US HSR), legislators, and other business and civic leaders gathered in Orlando, Fla., March 4-5, 2010, for High Speed Rail 2010. The conference, hosted by US HSR, sought to foster dialogue about the feasibility and process of building high-speed rail systems in Florida and in several other states.

"We are advocating for a high-speed rail system that is built on the successes of the countries who have built these types of systems before us," said Andy Kunz, president and CEO of US HSR. "We want to take the best of those systems and establish a thoroughly state-of-the-art rail network that will completely change the way Americans travel.

“It was significant that we had such a great turnout from foreign high speed rail companies and established systems,” Kunz said. “We will continue to foster these international partnerships while nurturing our own domestic high-speed rail industry."

Speaking during a conference luncheon, U.S. Congressman and senior member of the House Transportation Committee, John Mica (R-Winter Park), called on business leaders to provide private funding for high-speed rail projects to supplement planned federal stimulus funding. In addition, he asked that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) expedite actions to set in place procedures for procurement and set national standards for construction and logistics, such as track, signaling, and railroad car standards, to be followed by all states.

"Having the support of federal, state, and local governments is crucial to the success of high-speed rail in Florida and nationwide," said Thomas Hart, vice president in charge of Government Affairs and General Counsel for US HSR. "The federal stimulus money for Florida’s Tampa-to-Orlando rail line is a great start, but it will take joint support from the private and government sectors to execute high-speed rail in America properly to ensure its long term success."

Nazih Haddad, chief operating officer of Florida Rail Enterprise, spoke at length to the conference’s 300-plus attendees about Florida’s procurement procedures for the Tampa/Orlando rail project. He mentioned that FDOT is still consulting with FRA on the details of the proposed project but hopes to have a more solidified plan available for the public within the next six months.

In addition to Haddad, other high-ranking Floridians including Congresswomen Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) and Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) appeared at the conference to voice their support for high-speed rail in Florida and across the country. See videos of the speakers at www.ushsr.com.

The conference also featured exhibition space with representatives from more than 40 domestic and international companies specializing in all things high-speed rail. Of note, leading high-speed rail manufacturers, including U.S.-Japan High Speed Rail, Hyundai Rotem, Talgo, and Siemens exhibited their latest high-speed trains.

In January, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced that Florida would receive $1.25 billion in federal stimulus money to establish a high-speed rail system between Orlando and Tampa. The line is expected to shuttle millions of Floridians between the two cities (and stops in-between), reducing traffic flow from the already congested Interstate 4 corridor.