High Speed Rail Billions Draw Many Suitors

[Editor’s Note: As this story went to press, word is out that a spending budget compromise worked out by the White House and Congress reportedly slashes up to $2.9 billion from high speed rail, effectively eliminating funding for this year.  It is noted by Obama officials, however, the program still has “$2 billion on hand for high-speed rail projects.”]

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced that the federal government has received over 90 applications from 24 states interested in getting support for high-speed rail projects. The requests total nearly $10 billion, but the government has only $2.4 billion to offer, meaning many programs may not find some of the funding they need.

The money comes from funds rejected by Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott, who axed a plan to build a train system from Orlando to Tampa. As we reported earlier this year, that money was then offered up to projects on the national level, giving cities in Florida the chance to partner with businesses in order to side-step the governor. Unfortunately, those measures in Florida failed to be ready in order to meet the April 4th deadline for proposals.

EuroStar

image via EuroStar

Secretary LaHood did not specify what projects had requested support, but highlighted projects already happening around the country as evidence for high-speed rail’s potential for mass transportation, noting that the population in America is expected to grow by 100 million people over the next forty years, and that the addition of tens of millions of new cars on the road will only further congest the nation’s infrastructure.

The Federal Railroad Administration is now in the process of reviewing the 90 applications submitted, and will determine which projects have the ability to quickly spur economic development, reduce energy consumption, and improve regional transportation.

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Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of BananaStandMedia.com, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.