Biden, LaHood Meet with Governors on Future of U.S. High-Speed Rail

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood challenged governors to think boldly when designing high-speed rail plans during a roundtable discussion at the White House.

The session was a unique opportunity for state leaders to share their ideas with the Obama Administration about the future of high-speed trains in America.In April, President Obama released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high-speed rail. The plan identifies $13 billion in federal funds — $8 billion in the Recovery Act and $5 billion requested in the President’s budget — to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future.

Detailed guidance for up to the first $8 billion in federal grant applications will be announced later this month and the first round of grants are expected to be awarded as soon as late summer 2009.

In developing the high-speed rail program, Administration officials have sought extensive input from states, Congress, labor, industry, rail experts from countries with working high-speed rail networks, and other key stakeholders. Today’s roundtable follows Secretary LaHood’s recent fact-finding trip to several European countries where he met with transportation officials and rail operators and witnessed first-hand the operations of working high-speed rail systems. Other senior U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) officials recently hosted a series of seven regional workshops around the country.

“Everyone knows I’m a big believer in our nation’s rail system – I’ve devoted a big part of my career doing what I can to support it – and I’m proud that this Administration is about to transform that system fundamentally,” Biden said. “Thanks to an $8 billion investment from the Recovery Act, we’re going to start building a high-speed rail system that will loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways, and make travel in this country leaner, meaner and a whole lot cleaner.”

“America is ready to embrace a new level of passenger rail service that offers a safe, convenient, and sustainable way to travel from city to city, and region to region,” LaHood said. “President Obama has handed us an extraordinary opportunity – and now it is up to all of us to seize the moment. With creative input and contributions from governors across the country, I believe we’ll be able to do just that.”