Obama Announces $8 Billion for High-Speed Rail

TAMPA, Fla. — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden today announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is awarding $8 billion to states across the country to develop America’s first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the funding will help create jobs and transform travel in America, federal officials contend. Critics say foreign companies that have experience in high-speed rail could end up with the jobs.

“Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and waterways for the future,” President Obama said. “That investment is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America.”

Today’s awards will serve as a down-payment on developing or laying the groundwork for 13 new, large-scale high-speed rail corridors across the country. The major corridors are part of a total of 31 states receiving investments, including smaller projects and planning work that will help lay the groundwork for future high-speed intercity rail service.

The grants are not only expected to have an up-front job and economic impact, but help spur economic growth in communities across the country, provide faster and more energy-efficient means of travel, and establish a new industry in the U.S. that provides stable, well-paid jobs.

This $8 billion investment is expected to create or save tens of thousands of jobs over time in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, and rail maintenance and operations, according to officials. Over 30 rail manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, have agreed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are hired to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines.

“The President’s bold vision for high-speed rail is a game changer,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “It’s not only going to create good jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base, it’s also going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and help create livable communities.  I have no doubt that building the next generation of rail service in this country will help change our society for the better.”

The majority of the dollars will go toward developing new, large-scale high-speed rail programs. This includes projects in Florida, which is receiving up to $1.25 billion to develop a new high-speed rail corridor between Tampa and Orlando with trains running up to 168 miles per hour, and in California, which is receiving up to $2.25 billion for its planned project to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco and points in between with trains running up to 220 miles per hour.

In April 2009, the Administration released a long-term plan for high speed rail in America. In addition to the $8 billion awarded today, the plan also included $1 billion a year for five years in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start the program.  Applicants submitted over $55 billion in project proposals for the initial $8 billion in funds awarded.

Obama Administration officials are traveling across the country this week to announce funding for the high speed rail projects and discuss how this investment will create local jobs and rebuild the economy.