Friday, February 27, 2009

Ohio Proposed Budget Includes Developing Passenger Rail Between 4-5 Cities

[Hat tip Transportation for America]

As part of a two-year, $7.5 billion proposed budget, Ohio plans to continue developing passenger rail service connecting four cities Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati - and possibly including a link to Toledo. Rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio supports the so-called "3-C" plan and describes it here.

In a related effort, All Aboard Ohio asks Ohioans to call their state legislators TODAY to ask that the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) be given the authority to back up any possible federal stimulus dollar shortfalls with state funding.

(Note that the stimulus provides 100% Federal funding, but All Aboard Ohio encourages calling for the expanded authority because

"there is always a chance Ohio will not be able to get all the federal funding it wants. It needs the back-up ability of state funding. Yet there will likely never be another time when the terms will be so favorable to Ohio.")

Make the call or write your state representative and your state senator today.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama Budget Proposes $1 Billion A Year In High Speed Rail State Grants

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chi Tribune Asks Has the Time for Chicago As High-Speed Rail Hub Come?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Seeks High Speed Rail Presidency - $8 Billion Stimulus Just Start

Today NPR reports Transportation Secretary (and former Illinois Congressman) Ray LaHood said, "high-speed rail could be a signature issue for Obama. 'I do think this is the transformational issue for this administration when it comes to transportation,' LaHood said. 'I think President Obama would like to be known as the high-speed rail president, and I think he can be.'"

In a regional context the report notes,

"Illinois, the home state of both Obama and LaHood, also will likely get a large chunk of federal funds. Chicago is already a major rail hub for the region and the nation. Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, an advocacy group, says his region could use the money to improve and speed existing service.

'What we're hoping the stimulus money gets used for is upgrading the existing route between Chicago to St. Louis, to get the trip down to three-and-a-half or four hours,' Harnish said. He also hopes to start the engineering work for 'a true high-speed line that would bring that service down to two hours.'

High-speed rail advocates also would like to see service between Chicago and Minneapolis."

Meanwhile the California High Speed Rail Blog quoted LaHood a few days earlier from the National Journal:

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today emphasized the administration's long-term commitment to expanding high-speed rail service in 'five or six regions' of the country, not just with the $8 billion provided in the economic stimulus package President Obama signed into law last week, but also 'in subsequent years a very substantial effort.' Meeting with reporters earlier today, LaHood said that for Obama building high-speed rail networks is, 'if not his No. 1 priority, certainly at the top of his list. What the president is saying with the $8 billion is this is the start to help begin high-speed rail projects.' He added that the administration 'is committed to finding the dollars to not only get them started but to finishing them in at least five parts of the country,' although he declined to elaborate on where these projects might ultimately be built."

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eight billion! Barack Obama is the high-speed rail President

Eight. Billion. Dollars.

The federal government is going to invest eight billion dollars in high speed rail in the next year or two.

This is transformative.

This is how to modernize transportation and energy in this country.

And according to this Politico report, it was President Barack Obama who pushed to make high speed rail a "signature issue" in the stimulus.

He gets it. He gets that electric-powered 220 mph service between major cities instead of oil-powered airplanes in congested airports or oil-powered drives on congested highways is the future -- if we embrace it.

And he'll be reportedly asking for an additional billion every year in every budget for high speed rail.

Elections have consequences. Could you imagine if Mr. anti-Amtrak John McCain was President? It would have been disastrous for our energy and transportation networks!

Nothing could be better for the future of high speed rail than President Obama's exceptionally exciting commitment to implementing it.

Thank you Mr. President. And if you'd like to thank President Obama for his visionary leadership on high speed rail, visit our site at

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:

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

President Obama Identifies High Speed Rail As High Priority

Earlier today, President Obama listed high-speed rail and transit as a high priority at a town hall meeting in Fort Meyers, FL:

"...I’d like to see high-speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to — to invest in mass transit, because, potentially, that’s energy-efficient, and I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure.

The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody recognizes that that’s not a smart way to design communities.

So we should be using this money to help spur this kind of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation. That will make a big difference."

This is really exciting! It is the first time that a President has been so favorable to expanding transit.

Any major shifts in transportation policy are going to be driven by the President's policies. He made the connection between transportation and energy at Fort Myers today. We need to reinforce that connection by getting as many thank you messages to the President as possible.

Please Click Here to Send a Thank You.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Reps Dan Lipinski and Corrine Brown Circulate Letter For More Stimulus Infrastructure Dollars for Transit and Rail

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D - Illinois) and Rep. Corrine Brown (D - Florida) are circulating a sign-on letter trying to influence the anticipated conference between the U.S. House stimulus bill and the U.S. Senate version, which will likely be voted on today.

Here's what the two bills currently look like (thanks to The National Corridors Initiative for the breakdown):

House and Senate Bill Comparison on Transit and Intercity Passenger Rail:

Program Passed House Bill Proposed Senate Bill
Grants to Amtrak $800 m $850 m
Grants to States for Rail $300 m $250 m
High-Speed Rail 0 $ 2 b
Total Rail $1.1 b $3.1 b
Transit Formula Funds $7.5 b $8.4 b
Fixed Guideway Modernization $2 b 0
New Starts $2.5 b 0
Total Transit $12 b $8.4 b
Discretionary Grants 0 $5.5 b

The Lipinski/Brown letter requests that stimulus infrastructure spending increase to $85 billion, with $12 billion for transit and $5 billion for intercity passenger rail.

Click Here to Urge Your Congressional Representative to Sign the Lipinski/Brown Letter to Support Mass Transit and Passenger Rail
. It will take just a minute - and the positive effects could last more than a lifetime!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Extra funds will speed up French investment

[From the Railway Gazette]

FRANCE: Announcing a further package of measures to relaunch the economy on February 2, Prime Minister François Fillon revealed that an additional €300m is to be invested in the rail network.

Addressing the inter-ministerial committee charged by President Sarkozy with revitalising the economy, Fillon said that more than 1,000 investment projects will be launched during 2009. Only a small proportion will be rail-related, but the extra funding means that RFF will be able to increase its 2009 investment spending by €239m more than planned. Much of this is to be allocated to improving regional routes, including rural lines.

Under the performance contract agreed on November 3 2008, RFF is to invest €13bn by 2015 in improvements to the present network, with €1.5bn to be spent during 2009. The contract will also release funding that will allow high speed line construction to be accelerated, with four projects soon to be in hand simultaneously: the second stage of LGV Est from Baudrecourt to Strasbourg, LGV Sud-Europe from Tours to Bordeaux, LGV Bretagne-Pays de la Loire from Le Mans to Rennes and Sablé, and the Nîmes-Montpellier bypass.

Studies, preparatory works and land acquisition will get underway in 2009 for the first two schemes, paving the way for the main construction work to start in 2011.

Taken together, the performance contract and the economic relaunch measures amount to an additional €600m for RFF, which is increasing its total investment spend in 2009 from €2.8bn to €3.4bn


Thursday, February 05, 2009

APTA - Senate Continues to Consider the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

From the American Public Transit Association (APTA): "The U.S. Senate today will continue to consider the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Senate version of legislation currently contains $8.4 billion for public transportation through existing formula programs, $5.5 billion for a multi-modal discretionary grant program for states and local governments for highway, transit and other surface transportation projects of national or regional significance, and $2 billion for high speed rail.

Yesterday, an amendment offered by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to strip several programs from the bill, including the $2 billion for high speed rail and $850 million for Amtrak was defeated by a vote of 65-32. An additional amendment to remove high speed rail funds from the legislation may be offered by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO). No other additional amendments relevant to transportation and infrastructure were considered. However, several significant amendments remain pending and others are expected to be offered as the Senate proceeds with its consideration of the bill.

There are a number of amendments that may be offered on the Senate floor that could add additional funding for public transportation, including:

* An amendment sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) that would add $25 billion for infrastructure, including $5 billion for transit. (This amendment, which would add funds for the New Starts and Fixed Guideway Modernization programs, was set aside after it failed on a procedural vote, but the amendment sponsors may to attempt to revive it.)

* An amendment sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) which would add $6.5 billion for transit, and allow a portion of the funds to be used to cover operating expenses; and

* An amendment sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) that would redirect stimulus funds not obligated within one year of passage to highway, transit and water resources projects.

In addition, APTA continues to track an amendment expected to be offered by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) that would eliminate the multi-modal discretionary grant program described above and transfer the funds to the Federal Highway Program to be distributed under the federal Surface Transportation Program (STP). The intermodal program as currently drafted would make funding available for the New Starts, fixed-guideway rail modernization programs, as well as passenger and freight rail projects not otherwise eligible under the bill.

Action Alert

Contact your Senators immediately and urge them to:

* Support amendments to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that increase funding for public transportation;

* Oppose amendments that would eliminate funding for passenger and high-speed rail initiatives;

* Oppose the Bond amendment to eliminate the $5.5 billion multi-modal discretionary program and transfer the funding to the Federal Highway Administration's Surface Transportation Program."

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association recommends you

Contact Your Senators by Clicking Here.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sen. Bond Attempting to Block Transit and High Speed Rail

Senator Kit Bond has introduced amendments that would eliminate two important programs from the stimulus package. One is a $5.5 billion program targeted to large infrastructure projects. This program could be used for transit projects, reducing railroad freight congestion or high-speed rail. The other is a $2.2 billion program for high-speed rail corridors around the country.

Please contact your Senators today. Ask them to block Sen. Bond's amendments.

Phone calls are the most helpful, but definitely send an email.

Click Here To Contact Your Senators.

Illinois residents: Sen. Durbin has worked hard to get these programs into the stimulus package. Please thank him for his work. You can be most helpful by forwarding a link to this blog entry to your friends in other states.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Amtrak Names Illinois' Thomas Carper Chair; Former Chair Donna McLean Becomes Vice Chair

From the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak):

WASHINGTON - At its regularly scheduled meeting yesterday, Amtrak's Board of Directors unanimously agreed to name Thomas Carper of Illinois as Chairman of the Board. Carper, who has served in various Illinois state and local government positions, including Mayor of the City of Macomb, has been a director on the Amtrak board since March 2008. At the same meeting former Chairman Donna McLean was named Vice Chairman, replacing Hunter Biden, who remains as a board member.

Carper said, "Everything we have done as a board, we've done as a unified body, and this change in our hierarchy is no exception. That this was a unanimous and non-contentious decision is testimony to that fact. I look forward to tackling the exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Amtrak is ready to play a growing role in strengthening our transportation system and our economy."

The five-member board consists of four voting members, two Democrats, Carper and Biden, and two Republicans, McLean and Nancy Naples. Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman is a non-voting member of the board.

Former Chairman McLean, who was named Vice Chairman, said, "With the change in administration, its best for the company to have Tom as Chairman. I am pleased to be able to work with Tom and the rest of the board as we face the exciting and challenging years ahead."

As part of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) is expected in 2009 to expand to nine members from its current allotment of seven positions, five of which are currently occupied. The President nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms Amtrak Board members.

About Amtrak

Amtrak has posted six consecutive years of growth in ridership and revenue, carrying more than 28.7 million passengers in the last fiscal year. Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit

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