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2/8/2011



Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Vice President Biden unveils Administration's $53 billion plan for high-speed rail


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Vice President Joseph Biden announced today the Obama Administration's $53 billion proposal to build new a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.

The proposal is part of a "comprehensive plan" to help the nation reach President Barack Obama's goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, according to a White House statement.

As the first step in the six-year plan, Obama's 2012 fiscal-year budget proposal would invest $8 billion to expand access to high-speed rail by focusing on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors: core express, regional and emerging.

Core express corridors would form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, where electrified trains would travel on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125 mph to 250 mph or higher. "Crucial" regional corridors with train speeds of 90 mph to 125 mph would see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for a future high-speed service.

Emerging corridors — where trains would travel at up to 90 mph — would provide riders with access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.

The proposal also would "open the door to new public-private partnerships and attract significant private investment in developing and operating passenger rail corridors," the White House statement said.

Biden made the announcement with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Philadelphia, where passengers traveling from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pa., on Amtrak's Keystone Corridor connect to high-speed Acela service to Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

"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 in a prepared statement. "This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high-speed rail for more Americans."

U.S. Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.), who heads the House Transportation Committee, and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who heads the Railroads Subcommittee, expressed reservations about the proposal.

"With the first $10.5 billion in Administration rail grants, we found that, one, the Federal Railroad Administration is neither a capable grant agency, nor should it be involved in the selection of projects; two, what the Administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere; and three, Amtrak highjacked 76 of the 78 projects, most of them costly and some already rejected by state agencies,” Mica said in a prepared statement.

Rather than focus on the Northeast Corridor, "the most congested corridor in the nation and the only corridor owned by the federal government, the Administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects," Mica added.

The Administration "continues to fail in attracting private investment capital and the experience to properly develop and cost-effectively operate true high-speed rail," Shuster said. "They have also ignored by provision in law that calls for competition on money-losing Amtrak routes."
 









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