Speaking at an event at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Railroad Station, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Obama administration plans to spend $53 billion over the next 6 years on high speed rail and existing rail networks. About $8 billion of the money will be allocated for the 2012 budget, with the rest allocated over the next 5 years.
In a press release following the announcement, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s CEO Roelof van Ark said, “This is the kind of bold investment in the future of our nation’s infrastructure that will get the attention of the private sector and make high-speed travel a reality in the United States. Californians are already doing their part to invest in and develop a fast, clean and low-cost transportation system, and we are pleased to have the partnership of our federal government.”
California plans to develop over 800 miles of high-speed rail over the next several years, utilizing trains that can reach upwards of 220 miles per hour. An initial 120 mile segment will begin construction in 2012 between Fresno and Bakersfield. The High-Speed Rail authority estimates that the project will result in 100,000 construction jobs over the next 5 years with funds already approved.
“True high-speed rail that travels faster than 200 miles per hour over long distances between California’s major metropolitan centers will mean strengthening our state’s economy in the long term,” said van Ark. “In the near term, development of this system will mean tens of thousands of jobs at a time when we need them the most and a huge boost that will assist our state’s economy.”
Not everyone supports the project, including House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R- Fla) and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), according to published sources.
Mica reportedly likened the funding to “…giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio…” Ref.: Washington Post
Shuster doesn’t believe funding should be given to any project unless it can show a significant impact. He reportedly said, “I’m not willing to spend money unless we know it is going to be targeted on the one corridor where it could seriously have an impact, and that’s the Northeast Corridor.” Ref.: Bloomberg
It remains to be seen what will happen to the President’s budget proposals when presented to Congress. Conservatives in Congress have called for eliminating the high-speed rail program and Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have previously pushed to cut its funding. Indeed, even one of California’s own congressmen, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) has signed on to legislation that could result in a loss of funding for California’s project. (See “Derailing High Speed Rail” )
For more information:
CA High-Speed Rail Press Release
CA High-Speed Rail Authority website