Mark Yachmetz is Associate Administrator for Railroad Policy and Development at the U.S. D.O.T. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). He has held this position since June 2000, and is responsible for supporting the Obama Administration in the area of intercity passenger rail policy development and for supporting Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in his role as a member the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). He also has direct management responsibility for development and implementation of Federal programs providing investment in the rail industry. These programs include the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, capital and operating grants to Amtrak, grants to States for rail line relocation, the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program of loans and loan guarantees for rail capital improvements, safety-related research and development, and development and demonstration of improved passenger-related technologies.
Prior to assuming this position, Mr. Yachmetz was Director of FRA's Office of Passenger Programs, Executive Director of the National Maglev Initiative, Chief of FRA's Community and Shipper Assistance Staff, and a program manager in the National Freight Assistance Program. He also served as Special Assistant to FRA Administrators John Riley and Gil Carmichael. Selected as a Congressional Fellow in 1989, he served as a member of the senior professional staff of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Hazardous Materials of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce. Before joining FRA, Mr. Yachmetz served on the staff of the Interstate Commerce Commission's Office of Proceedings and was a civil engineer in private practice. He has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland and presently resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
In the United States, the public sector, in particular the Federal and State governments, have generally treated railroads differently than other forms of transportation. Highways, aviation, inland waterways and transit have been viewed from the perspective of public works deserving of public investment. Railroads on the other hand, have been viewed from a commerce perspective requiring public regulation, with limited exceptions in times of crisis, arrangements driven by political compromise, or in efforts to preserve some minimal level of service. The Obama Administration proposes a significant shift, with a stronger role for rail transportation supported by levels of public investment on a par with other forms of transportation. The seminar will review the background on this policy shift and discuss the strategic approach proposed by the President to expand the role of high-speed intercity passenger rail transportation in the U.S., and some of the challenges this proposal will face on the track to success.