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In early 2010, President Obama announced a plan to help build a national network of high-speed rail and began doling out federal funds to projects across the United States — with California, to date, the largest recipient.
The plan received a mention in the President’s State of the Union speech and today Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Obama Administration planned to spend $53 billion over the next six years to help get the network built. To put that number in perspective, the Anaheim to San Francisco segment of California’s high-speed rail project is estimated to cost $43 billion. Excerpt from the White House press release:
As the first step in this comprehensive, six-year plan, the President’s Budget for the coming fiscal year would invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service. In order to achieve a truly national system, these investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:
* Core Express: These corridors will form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
* Regional: Crucial regional corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high-speed service.
* Emerging: Trains traveling at up to 90 mph will provide travelers in emerging rail corridors with access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.
This system will allow the Department – in partnership with states, freight rail, and private companies – to identify corridors for the construction of world-class high-speed rail, while raising speeds on existing rail lines and providing crucial planning and resources to communities who want to join the national high-speed rail network. With rail ridership reaching all-time highs in many areas of the country during 2010, these investments will ensure that more Americans have the option of taking a train to reach their destination.
It’s pretty clear from the announcement that the Administration is seeking to “clarify” their role in high-speed rail — and that some of the money will be used to speed up existing inter-city train lines, not build true bullet trains. The first round of money distributed last year wasn’t greeted warmly in all quarters because many states still can’t afford their share of project costs and two states, Wisconsin and Ohio, actually rejected the federal funds.
Still, on balance this seems to be good news for California, as some of the money seems likely to continue flowing here and the Obama Administration has thrown their support behind getting construction started between Bakersfield and Madera in the San Joaquin Valley.