President Joe Biden announced that the Obama administration will dedicate another
$8 billion toward high-speed rail in the proposed U.S. federal budget expected
next week. The plan calls for $53 billion over six years "to continue
construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network."
President Barack Obama last month during his State of the Union speech stated a
goal to provide "80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within
$8 billion would follow an initial "down payment" of $2.5 billion
from the fiscal year 2010 budget and $8 billion allocated from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act. The White House press office said funding sources would be
outlined in the proposed budget.
Speaking Tuesday during a press conference at
Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, Biden said the plan focuses on attracting
private industry, state and city support to maintain and operate tracks in
various rail corridors throughout the country.
A simplified process
would enable states, cities and private companies to apply for grants from one
of two $4 billion accounts: One for network
development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment,
and the other for maintaining Amtrak and other publicly owned assets, bringing
stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and providing
"temporary operating support to crucial state corridors while the full
system is being built and developed."
plan includes three types of high-speed rail: a core express running on
dedicated tracks at average speeds between 125 and 250 miles per hour, regional
service with average speeds of 90 to 125 miles per hour, and rail service from
lower-demand areas, running at about 90 miles per hour and connecting to rail
U.S. House of Representatives Transportation
Committee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and railroads
subcommittee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) issued a joint statement outlining "extreme
reservations" regarding the administration's plan. According to Mica, "This
is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment
portfolio. Amtrak's Soviet-style train system is not the way to provide modern
and efficient passenger rail service."
suggested the initial $10.5 billion was spent unwisely, spread too thinly
across the nation rather than focused on the congested Northeast Corridor.
The House Transportation Committee announced
plans to investigate "how previous funding decisions were made,"
according to Schuster. "I am concerned that without appropriate controls
to ensure the most worthy projects are the ones that receive funding,
high-speed rail funding could become another political grab bag for the president."
Last November, newly elected Republican
governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin pushed back on
high-speed by saying they would reject the funding originally designated to
their states. They claimed the states over time would be too financially
burdened to maintain tracks.
acknowledged that concern, saying, "A single extra runway in Jacksonville, Fla., costs $1.3 billion.
When you talk about the investments in rail, they pale in comparison to the
Senate Transportation Committee chairman John Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.)
issued a statement in support of the proposal.