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Obama Announces $8 Billion for High-Speed Rail Nationwide

TAMPA, Florida, January 28, 2010 (ENS) – President Barack Obama will announce today that the U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding $8 billion in economic stimulus funding to states to develop America’s first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service. The announcement covers federal government investments in 13 rail corridors and rail projects in 31 states.

“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,” said President Obama. “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.”

The majority of the $8 billion funding will go toward developing new, large-scale high-speed rail programs for faster and more energy-efficient travel.

President Obama will host a town hall meeting in Tampa where he will announce $1.25 billion to develop a new high-speed rail corridor between Tampa and Orlando with trains running up to 168 miles per hour.

This investment will initiate the development of the Tampa to Orlando segment, with speeds reaching 168 mph and 16 round trips per day on 84 miles of brand new track dedicated to high-speed rail. Trip time between the two cities on the new line will be less than one hour, compared to around 90 minutes by car. The high-speed line could be extended to Miami by 2017.

California will be receiving up to $2.25 billion toward the construction of a new, electrically powered high-speed rail system of 800 miles serving major population centers from San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego with over 300 trains per day, running up to 220 miles per hour.

This still from a conceptual animation shows a high-speed train traveling through a wind farm in California’s Mojave Desert. (Image courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority)

California’s high-speed train system will run on 100 percent renewable energy and will take 12 billion pounds of greenhouse gases out of the environment annually, according to state figures. In addition, Recovery Act grants worth $20 million will fund upgrades of the trains’ emissions control equipment, which will reduce pollution in California.

Californians have supported investments in passenger rail that have led to ridership growth, approving a $9.5 billion bond measure in November 2008.

Robert Cruickshank, chairman of Californians For High Speed Rail, said, “The federal government has rewarded that support with this significant commitment of funds. We need to ensure that these funds get out the door as quickly as possible to get the high speed rail project under construction and meet federal stimulus deadlines. These funds will help create desperately needed jobs across California, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and address the climate crisis while building a sustainable transportation network that saves Californians money.”

Over 5.5 million people per year now ride on California’s three intercity corridors, making these routes the busiest in the U.S. after the Northeast Corridor. These existing intercity passenger rail routes also will be enhanced and will ultimately connect to the new high-speed service.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid said his state will benefit from $2.25 billion in high-speed rail funding announced for California.

“California’s north-south line will provide an important connecting point in Palmdale for Nevada’s Desert Xpress project,” said Reid, the U.S. Senate majority leader.

Desert Xpress, which is privately funded, is expected to break ground this year. The Nevada Department of Transportation did not apply for the stimulus funding and the proposed Mag-lev rail project was found ineligible by the Department of Transportation.

“By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time,” said Vice President Biden. We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term; we’re spurring economic development in the future; we’re making our communities more livable – and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world.”

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.

Between Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri, improvements worth $1.13 billion will be made that will allow passenger rail service to operate at speeds of up to 110 mph, decreasing travel time from Chicago to St. Louis to about four hours. Travelers will reach their destination 30 percent faster compared to current rail service, and 10 percent faster than driving between the two cities.

The long-term vision for the corridor is to reach speeds of 110 mph from Chicago to St. Louis and across Missouri to Kansas City, with up to eight daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis.

The corridor stretching from the Minneapolis-St. Paul to Madison, Wisconsin currently has no passenger rail service. Recovery Act funding worth $823 million will go to establish intercity passenger rail service at speeds of up to 110 mph. Service is expected by 2013 and plans call for service to be eventually extended to Chicago.

State director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group Brian Imus said, “This investment will put people back to work in Illinois, clean our air, cut our energy consumption, and assist in the resurgence of American manufacturing. For millions of inter-city trips, high speed rail will be a faster, cleaner, more efficient way to travel across the state than driving or flying.”

“These first investments, totaling $2.6 billion in the Midwest, are part of a larger vision for a Midwest high speed rail network connecting every major city within 400 miles of Chicago,” Imus said.

Recovery Act funding worth $620 million will improve the Southeast corridor between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; and Washington, DC.

Eleven miles of new high-speed rail track will be built between Richmond and Washington, DC to eliminate one of the most severe bottlenecks along an congested area on the Southeast corridor. The improvements are expected to lay the groundwork for future high-speed rail in the region.

Nearly 30 inter-related projects will increase top train speeds to 90 mph and double the number of round trips between the two largest cities in North Carolina, serving three million people.

Between Raleigh and Richmond, four new crossovers will be constructed to reduce trip times and prepare for the future development of high-speed rail lines between North Carolina and Virginia.

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.

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 – a commitment the administration secured to help ensure new jobs are created here at home. Jobs in track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, and rail maintenance and operations will be created.

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.

Design concept for a typical large station interior (Image courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority)

“The President’s bold vision for high-speed rail is a game changer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “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.”

Environmentalists and other citizens groups support this clean mode of transportation, which is responsible for just a third of the greenhouse gases of airplanes and a fifth of that of automobiles, according to federal government data.

Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, a founding member of the rail advocacy coalition OneRail, said, “Investment in rail will create jobs not only in those corridors, but around the nation as American companies develop, build, and operate systems that will reduce energy consumption, mitigate air pollution, enhance the reliability of passenger and freight rail, and create more livable communities.”

Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, a founding member of the rail advocacy coalition OneRail, said, “Investment in rail will create jobs not only in those corridors, but around the nation as American companies develop, build, and operate systems that will reduce energy consumption, mitigate air pollution, enhance the reliability of passenger and freight rail, and create more livable communities.”

Ann Mesnikoff, director of Sierra Club’s 21st Century Transportation Program said, “Fresh off last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama is already living up to his pledge to help rescue, restore, and rebuild America and the middle class with unprecedented investments in job creation through clean energy and smart infrastructure.”

“The scale of these investments is impressive and dovetails with the administration’s strong commitment to cleaner, smarter transportation,” Mesnikoff said. “We are encouraged that this long overdo effort represents just the first step in an ambitious initiative that will benefit our environment, our economy, and our security.”

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