A good deal of money earmarked for high speed rail was sacrificed in the 2011 appropriations deal. Billions of federal dollars will not go toward constructing a networked of high speed rail lines across the country.
However, the Transportation Department has been able to award willing states with grants, mainly because of money turned down from the initial stimulus package by states with Tea Party governors like Florida and Wisconsin. Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took Florida’s $2 billion and gave it to 15 states and Amtrak. Here are some of the projects awarded:
Across the U.S., 32 states and the District of Columbia are already preparing for high-speed rail corridors to link Americans with faster and more energy-efficient travel options. And the dedicated rail grants we’re announcing today will:
• Make an unprecedented investment in the Northeast Corridor, enabling trains to reach speeds between 135 and 160 mph;
• Expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest, creating 1000 jobs in the construction phase alone building the Chicago-Detroit line;
• Boost U.S. manufacturing by investing in state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars for California and the Midwest; and
• Continue laying the groundwork for the nation’s first 220-mph high-speed rail system in California.
$800 million goes to the Northeast Corridor in this award, with $400 for the Midwest and $300 million for California’s high speed rail program. Some of the money is going toward platform and station improvements on existing rail lines, or upgrades to tracks and signals. But there is money for environmental and engineering analysis of a high speed rail station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a section of the southeast HSR corridor from Richmond to Raleigh, another section in Texas, and funding for the actual construction of a 20-mile extension along the Central Valley Corridor of the California HSR project.
This money cannot build out the high speed rail network all by itself, even combined with previous commitments from the federal government and states. But it could help attract private investment. And it will keep rail construction going in multiple projects that will save travel times and increase productivity. The Buy America provisions make this a mini stimulus, too.
Florida’s loss is the gain of these state projects.