The biggest challenge faced by XpressWest is ‘the federal government’s requirement that high-speed trains must be manufactured in the USA’, said Marnell. ‘As everyone knows, there are no high-speed trains manufactured in the USA. This inflexible requirement has been a fundamental barrier to financing high speed rail in our country. For the past 10 years, we have patiently waited for policy makers to recognise high speed rail in the USA is a new enterprise and that allowing trains from countries with decades of safe high speed rail experience is needed to connect the Southwest region and start this new industry. After the environmental work connecting Palmdale to Victorville is completed, we intend to renew our request for support from the Federal Railroad Administration and are hopeful policy makers in Washington DC will allow the Federal Railroad Administration to adopt a more flexible and realistic approach to support high speed rail.’
Marnell said ‘the real question is: do those in Washington DC have the courage and vision to proceed, or is our leadership going to force projects throughout the USA to seek financial support for infrastructure in our country from foreign governments?’
The only way I can see this resolved (and Amtrak and California High Speed Rail Authority will run into this problem when they start receiving proposals for their RFPs) is if the feds relax the rules on Build America for a period of ten years to allow both overseas manufacturers, developers and investors to get involved and to allow those overseas manufacturers to build plants here in the States. To have the industry in this case is challenging when we don't even have the market, and yet we have proposals from the Europeans, Chinese and Japanese who are practically close to giving away the technology. The US manufacturers would make up through the manufacturing of rail ties, rails, and the infrastructure itself.
The reason that we almost no longer have to import streetcars/light rail vehicles/commuter railcars is because since the 1980s, we've had a huge amount of startups and legacy systems replacing equipment about to fall apart. The LA and San Diego metro areas went from (outside of Amtrak) not having a mile of commuter rail or light rail in 1980 to having hundreds of miles today. The amount of cities with commuter rail and light rail has skyrocketed since the dark ages (*cough* Reagan *cough*) of transit funding. Yes, many of the initial production vehicles are still built overseas (for instance, the first 38 MTA/ConnDOT M8's were built in Kobe, Japan with the rest in Lincoln, Nebraska). But out of those 425 new railcars, the bulk has been built right here in the states. And there's overlap too. Denver went to Hyundai-Rotem for equipment, Minneapolis' new S70 LRV's are very similar to the ones ordered by seven other customers (none who had existing light rail in 1980 and had discontinued streetcar service years prior.
If you want to have a market, you have to create it, nurture it and sometimes get the proper stimulus for the market. We should be doing everything it takes to bring high speed rail in the United States.
I have some sample letters I am writing to legislators about this if anyone is interested, especially the New Yorkers on the forum.