High Speed Rail

High-speed rail is one of the Obama administration’s major transportation priorities. Last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $8 billion aimed at developing high-speed intercity passenger rail service along 13 new corridors and this year Congress added an additional $2.3 billion. But the outcome of some key state elections next week could determine how fast that train arrives, if at all.

On Tuesday, MIPRC Chair Rep. Elaine Nekritz (Illinois) testified on behalf of the commission before the rail subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The subcommittee was holding a field hearing in Chicago on High-Speed Rail Grants Awarded under the Recovery Act.

Seven Midwestern states are receiving assistance from the $8 billion High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) to upgrade four federally designated high-speed rail corridors.

State eNews Issue #39 | February 3, 2010
Even though 40 states and Washington, D.C., competed for a piece of more than $8 billion available in the Recovery Act for high-speed rail, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, only three states walked away big winners. California, Florida and Illinois were the only states awarded more than $1 billion each in funding Jan. 28 for fast trains.

The Council of State Governments recommends that states work cooperatively where appropriate to enter into multistate agreements and interstate compacts to enhance the potential for federal high-speed rail funding.

Even as high-speed rail advanced tremendously in parts of Asia and Europe, rail travel in the United States has languished as the American love affair with the automobile, the impressive interstate highway system and affordable air travel ensured that America’s rail system did not progress into the 21st century. However, this scenario is in the process of undergoing a radical transformation as a result of efforts initiated by the Obama Administration to include $13 billion ($8 billion in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) along with an additional $5 billion spread over the next five years) as seed money to fund up to 11 high-speed rail corridors connecting densely populated areas of the country.