Funding Doubles for High-Speed Rail Projects

The Federal Railroad Administration has doubled its strategic funding of regional high-speed rail projects, concentrating new grants on Florida, California and the Midwest.

Based on Congressional announcements made Monday, the largest recipients will be Florida at $800 million, California at $902 million for Los Angeles-San Francisco, and the Midwest, which is expected to receive $230 million for the Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City line and $150 million for the Dearborn-Kalamazoo line in Michigan.

Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), stated his support for the latest round of grants. “Every project funded moves us closer to realizing Transportation Secretary LaHood’s prediction that 85% of Americans will be connected via high-speed rail within 25 years. This is the beginning of a transformation of our nation’s transportation system, giving people a travel option that is good for jobs, good for business and good for the environment,” Learner stated.

The Midwest region previously received $1.2 billion for Chicago-St. Louis, $810 million to connect Madison and Milwaukee, and $400 million to establish the 3C service in Ohio, connecting Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton.

“President Obama recognizes that we can’t build a 21st century economy on a 19th century infrastructure. In this economic climate, taxpayers will maximize the return on their investments because the costs will never be lower and the jobs never more needed. This is why some of the states hardest hit by the recession have committed scarce dollars to ensure these critical projects move forward,” Learner added.

Currently, the Obama Administration has invested $10.5 billion in high-speed rail projects, with an additional $1 billion per year pledged for each of the next four years. The House Transportation Committee has also recommended including $50 billion for high-speed rail development in the upcoming transportation reauthorization legislation.

President Obama recently proposed funding increases for high-speed rail as part of $50 billion in proposed infrastructure improvements. Under that initiative, high-speed rail would be put on an equal footing with highways in the federal surface transportation program.

This fundamental policy change would help ensure a sustained and effective commitment to a national high-speed rail system over the next generation. Specifically, the proposal calls for the nation to build and maintain 4,000 miles of rail.

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