Friday, February 13, 2009

High Speed Rail Gets Additional $9.3 billion in U.S. Stimulus

In the final stimulus bill ("American Reinvestment and Economic Recovery Act") High Speed Rail and intercity rail got a lot more funding than either the House or Senate bills, which is great news for rail! Unfortunately other forms of mass transit took a real hit. While the stimulus is a great start, mass transit in general needs a lot more funding - including rail - and we need to work to get better, consistent and long-term funding. A chart from The Transportpolitic:
House, Senate, and Final Versions of the Stimulus Bill
Program House Bill Senate Bill Final Bill
Grants to Amtrak $800 m $850 m $1.3 b
State Rail Grants $300 m $250 m 0
High-Speed Rail 0 $2 b $8 b
Total Rail $1.1 b $3.1 b $9.3 b
Transit Formula Funds $7.5 b $8.4 b $6.9 b
Fixed Guideway Modernization $2 b 0 $750 m
New Starts $2.5 b 0 $750 m
Discretionary Grants* 0 $5.5 b* $1.5 b*
Total Transit $12 b $8.4 + $5.5 b* $8.4 + $1.5 b*

* Discretionary grants would be distributed by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to qualified “shovel-ready” transportation projects. Most of this money would probably go to highway and bridge projects, but some of the funds would likely go to transit and rail as well.

The news from CALPIRG:

In a bold and far-sighted move, Congress added $9.3 billion in the American Reinvestment and Economic Recovery Act for development of high speed rail and other intercity rail. This amount was large increase from the Senate version of the bill and came on top of $8.4 designated for other public transit agencies.

“This bill, especially the money for high speed rail, marks a bold step for 21st century transportation,” said John Krieger, Transportation Advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). “After decades of looking on with envy at efficient bullet trains overseas, American high speed rail is finally leaving the station.”

The additional high speed rail funds mark the second time that public transportation has bucked the general trend in the Recovery Act. When the bill came to the floor of the House, dozens of amendments for additional were all defeated – with the sole exception of a measure to add $3 billion to public transportation. That amendment passed on a voice vote without opposition and with speeches of support from Republicans.

The $8.4 billion total for transit agencies is the same amount as in the earlier Senate version and less than proposed by the House. According to a statement from Speaker Pelosi’s office outlining the amounts, the transit money, “Includes funds for new construction of commuter and light rail, modernizing existing transit systems, and purchasing buses and equipment to needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities.” Pelosi’s office noted that,states have 787 ready-to-go transit projects totaling about $16 billion.”

The money for high speed rail development and for intercity rail will be spent largely on projects to build and improve tracks, signals, and stations, as well as to make pedestrian, auto and transit crossings safer near corridors where trains will reach speeds in excess of 150 mph. Some of it will be spent to modernize Amtrak, which has seen six years of record ridership gains. Californians recently passed a $10 billion ballot question for a North-South high speed rail link for trains which will travel over 200 mph. The project will avoid the need for costly airport and highway expansion and millions of gallons of oil consumption.

The push for rail and other transit comes at a time of record levels of public transportation and Amtrak ridership and growing frustration with airports. Europe, Japan, and China, our major economic competitors, already have thousands of miles of high speed rail. Experts generally see high speed rail as a more efficient and time-saving option than airplanes for trips less than 500 miles.

Said Krieger, “funds for transit and other rail will get Americans back to work while reducing dependence on oil and congestion at highways and airports.”

The stimulus bill also includes for transportation: $27.5 billion for highways, $1.5 billion for competitive state and local grants, and $1.3 billion for investment in air transportation systems. A copy of the press release from House Appropriations appears at: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/PressSummary02-12-09.pdf

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2 Comments:

Blogger John Wirtz said...

This could be great, as long as Senator Reid doesn't blow half the budget on an unnecessary maglev earmark from LA to Vegas.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Tare Innan said...

What part of "competitive grant" do people read as "LA-Vegas earmark"?

7:50 AM  

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