White House launches high-speed rail push with $53 billion plan

By admin
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 17:49 EDT
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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday called on Congress to back a six-year, $53-billion investment in high-speed, intercity rail, saying it was “dreaming big” on reinventing US infrastructure.

But Republicans, now wielding the power of the purse after November’s mid-term election triumph, slammed the plan, and called on the White House to stop throwing money at America’s “Soviet-style” railroad system.

Vice President Joe Biden, a rail advocate, unveiled the planned investment, which would give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, at an event in Philadelphia, on the congested northeast rail “corridor.”

It seemed highly unlikely however that the program would be fully or partially funded by Congress, as Republicans who now lead the House of Representatives oppose President Barack Obama’s infrastructure spending plans.

Biden and Obama argue that reinvigorating America’s creaking Amtrak service, makes sense for economic, practical and environmental reasons, and advocates bemoan the limited routes of the current US high-speed rail network.

“As a longtime Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced,” Biden said.

“This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.”

The service envisages three types of interconnected rail corridors — including a core express service with electric trains whisking passengers along dedicated tracks at between 125 and 250 miles per hour (200 and 400 kilometers per hour.)

Another network of regional corridors would see trains travel at speeds between 90-125 miles per hour (144 and 200 kilometers per hour) to cut trip times, while a third branch of services would funnel passengers towards speedy inter-city networks.

“In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big,” Ray LaHood, Obama’s Secretary of Transportation.

“This historic investment in America’s high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century.”

Obama argued in the State of the Union address last month that reinventing America’s economy and reviving US infrastructure was crucial to tackling high unemployment and helping the US economy complete with rising giants like China and India.

The investment announced on Tuesday will build on an initial $10.5 billion down-payment already made by the administration on a national high-speed rail system.

A first installment of the $53 billion plan will be unveiled in Obama’s next budget which is due to be released next week.

Republicans however signaled they want to ensure the plan never leaves the legislative station.

“This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio,” said John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, referring to the disgraced financier who is serving a 150-year prison sentence for Wall Street fraud.

Mica said that previous administration rail grants had shown the Federal Railroad Administration was not a “capable” agency to disburse funds.

He also charged that projects which the administration had touted as high-speed rail ended up as “embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere.”

“Amtrak’s Soviet-style train system is not the way to provide modern and efficient passenger rail service,” said Mica, who has accused the administration of failing to attract private investment to the cause of high-speed rail.

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  • Anonymous

    Any Federal funding made available for mass transit will require states to put up a match that may be as much as 50% (or as little as 10%). Few if any states are in a financial position to opt in with most experiencing huge budget deficits. Nice idea but ill timed.

  • Anonymous

    The Party of No will only back a for-profit plan that gouges the average American, and only if the the plan somehow appeases Big Oil (not likely if a good high speed system takes hundreds of thousands of people off the highways per year). Meanwhile, in just a few years gas will be $5 per gallon and headed towards $10 per gallon. Not to mention, that the US keeps failing further and further behind Europe and Asia. Disgusting!

  • Anonymous

    An efficient rail system that reduces congestion in the heavily traveled northeast and would allow you to travel faster than by car? Has he been reading Jules Verne again? How can oil companies and car companies make money if public transport is better than a car? That’s why GM tore out the trolley tracks in 25 major cities after WWII claiming they needed improvement that was too expensive. (and paid a small fine in court for doing so) We have been bought and sold for a long time. An excellent documentary on the subject “Taken For a Ride” shown on PBS frontline some years ago covered this in detail.

    This website has a summary of the information:

  • http://www.gravitycollapse.com suzerain

    This is what the “stimulus” really should have been spent on: an opportunity to improve the transportation network so that the bits (i.e., people) move faster, enabling the system to run more efficiently (i.e., makes more money).

  • MotorCityBadBoy

    We will NEVER do anything great as long as the Do Nothing republicans have a say. Could you imagine if these teabaggers were around when we wanted to go into space or build the Hoover dam? Nothing would have gotten done.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/RepublicConstitution?feature=mhum TruthRegimes

    I think high-speed national rail would be great but the President misspoke when he said that you would not have the pat down…Homeland Security has already declared that such a rail system with have BOTH the radiation naked body scanners and/or the groping pat down.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/RepublicConstitution?feature=mhum TruthRegimes

    What do “teabaggers” have to do with this? Hoover was a Republican, thus the name of the dam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Hoover
    Stop and make the distinction within the Tea Party–there are TWO components. One is the Koch brothers Neo-Con version of Bachmann/Palin/Gingrich types and the other is that of Ron Paul and Rand Paul (they do not agree on everything but why should they?).

  • Knot

    “In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big,”

    I guess he’s never researched other countries high-speed rail lines, there are some that are already bigger than that, and others under construction that make it look like a zoo railroad. China has budgeted $300 billion by 2020, they have commercial trains on regular rail lines that go 220 mph, and high-speed that go 300 mph, and they are building a high-speed line from Beijing to London. There’s something to be said for that old Soviet-style of train system.

    edit: I realized the only thing Americans spend the sort of money that it would take to build an effective high-speed rail network is the military, and the solution was obvious. The military needs to build the American rail network. .

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/RepublicConstitution?feature=mhum TruthRegimes

    You cannot talk money when it comes to Big Government loving libs, they think bigger and bigger government can fix everything. They never realize, just like the Establishment Right never realizes, that whatever new powers you institute or grow…those will all be handed over to the other side as soon as you lose office. I warned the silly rightwingers about the Patriot Act and they said shut up and support the troops and now I warn Big Government loving progressives and they say shut up and bow to the left.

  • Anonymous

    why must it always be something achieved 25 years in the future? such laziness.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FI4T5W4PGRYVG36BG5J27VIUN4 Scranton

    there is a reason no private enterprise will do this, because it isn’t profitable and tax payers will be stuck paying for it year after year after year

  • Phil E. Drifter

    That’s not a bad idea, considering they’ll never get their spending cut.

  • Phil E. Drifter

    Is your keyboard sticky yet? Because you stroke yourself an awful lot.

  • Anonymous

    There you go buddy:


  • Anonymous

    Then that case we should never have built roads or sewer systems or any bridges, dams because we will never see profit on them despite them being heavily used by private business.

  • Anonymous

    And when the was the dam built? Oh right it was known as the Boulder Dam when it was built and it was built during the Roosevelt admin. Hoover had nothing to do with the dam.


  • Anonymous

    I can hear the screams now. Republicans want to give money to build bombs that destroy, but will not invest a dime in energy efficient infrastructure to build the country we need in the next century. Mexico will have better infrastructure than we do 50 years from now.

  • Anonymous

    Bingo. Let’s make all the roads pay for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Republicans…building a bridge to the 19th century.

  • http://www.facebook.com/raymond.strand Raymond Strand

    Ah that’s because you’re only looking at the cost of ticket prices. By building trains that people will use over automobiles: You reduce the number of people killed in car accidents. You reduce the pollution generated by automobiles especially those idling in traffic. The cost for continuing to pollute the atmosphere leads to increased costs in food production along with a number of other things.

    You make it easier for American manufacturers to compete by making it cheaper to transport their goods across the country by eliminating massive convoys of trucks from coast to coast.

    Private Enterprises in the US won’t do it because it interferes with their ability to make as much money off of people as possible. That isn’t something the Government should concern itself with. If something provides a benefit to society the fact it has to be paid out of pocket rather than sustains itself isn’t important.

  • Anonymous

    You’re probably right about the immediate profitability of such a scheme. But you should try to consider the many long term benefits of such a system, several of which Raymond details below. And of course you need to recognize that at many times through history government has provided a crutch for private industry or has funded entirely new industries where private companies have flourished from so to say that we’ll be stuck paying year after year blah blah it’s just really not true

  • Anonymous

    I hear what you are saying, although personally I’d rather iron out the kinks after the fact, instead of trying to defeat what I and many others deem an urgently necessary reform before it gets off the ground, based solely on our nation’s current reactionary and flawed idea of what’s in the public interest

  • Anonymous

    Woah there buddy stop trying to inject TR’s narrative with actual facts you’re going to make his universe implode!

  • Anonymous

    Yo TR I think it’s time to stop licking AJ’s butthole.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TTCYMSQW7E5EVBYYMS2YSNCSAM Anonymous

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. Public transportation is often a wonderful thing (I’ve been to one or two places that missed the point of the idea), but at the same time, Amtrak… I’d be interested to see more data on this first.