Grand Vision by ProQuest

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									                                                                  Grand
       COVER STORY




Images courtesy of the Federal Railroad Administration.
       8       June 2010 • MassTransit • www.MassTransitmag.com
Vision
                                            By Fred Jandt

          Federal Railroad Administrator
         Joe Szabo speaks candidly on his
           past, stimulus funding, Amtrak
          and the vision of future of rail in
                         the United States.



                S     Since joining
                  Mass Transit, I’ve
                  interviewed the
                  heads of some of
                  the largest tran-
                  sit authorities in
                  North America.
                  Despite that, it was
                  with no small amount of trepidation
                  that I found myself in the office of
                  Federal Railroad Administrator
                  Joe Szabo.
                      With the increased interest in
                  passenger rail in the United States, I
                  thought it was time to get information
                  from the horse’s mouth so to speak.
                  Szabo’s Federal Railroad Administra-
                  tion (FRA) oversaw the granting of $8
                  billion in federal stimulus funds ear-
                  lier this year and is likely to give even
                  more as it looks to bring President
                  Obama’s vision of high-speed rail in
                  the United States to fruition.
                      I expected your usual conversation
                  with a politician — dancing around
                  questions and not giving real answers
                  — but instead found Szabo didn’t shy
                  away from anything asked. In fact,
                  he was open and candid with his re-
                  sponses, including his feelings about
                  high-speed rail’s detractors.

                  RAILROAD IN THE BLOOD
                      As Administrator Szabo describes
                  it he has a “very zig-zag background,”
                  but one steeped in the rail industry.
                  Szabo is a fifth-generation railroad-
                  er whose father spent 40 years as a
                  switchman for the Illinois Central
                  railroad, now a part of the Canadian
                  National Railway. As with too many


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COVER STORY

                                                                                                                volunteers. Mom and Dad were civically
                                                                                                                active, so it was just one of those core
                                                                                                                family values.”
                                                                                                                   Szabo spent two terms as a local of-
                                                                                                                ficer before moving onto a statewide
                                                                                                                position, “I was elected state legisla-
                                                                                                                tive director for the union, which was
                                                                                                                a full-time position, so I went on leave
                                                                                                                of absence from Metra at that time.”
                                                                                                                   While expanding his railroad industry
                                                
								
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