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1/26/2012



Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Obama reiterates support for HSR in 'blueprint,' but hopes for additional funding remain dim


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For the first time in three years, President Barack Obama did not mention high-speed rail (HSR) in his State of the Union address — but that doesn’t mean his support for the program has waned.

“Obviously the high-speed rail community was excited when it was included the previous two years, but I think that was unusual,” says National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association President Chuck Baker, who also serves as a board member for the American High Speed Rail Alliance. “I don’t think it’s particularly meaningful one way or the other that it wasn’t in the text of his speech.”

HSR was, however, included in the text of a document released by the White House after the State of the Union address that outlines strategies to support manufacturing in the United States. Obama proposed using half the savings from ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to help support a new surface transportation bill that would include continued investments in HSR. 

Funding HSR and other infrastructure investments through war-related savings could work, but likely won’t gain support in Congress, Baker believes.

“We haven’t seen any reaction from the Hill that indicates they intend to consider that to be a viable funding source,” he says. “It would take away the user fees linking infrastructure investment to infrastructure users that we’ve historically had through the gas tax, which causes some concern. But, I’d rather have the money from an unlinked source than no money at all.”

Even if Congress considers the president’s latest surface transportation bill proposal, it’s unlikely funds would be appropriated for HSR, Baker believes.

“This is still a program that’s politicized and right now, it would be difficult to envision high-speed rail being included in the surface transportation bill,” he says. “I still think the most important thing the high-speed rail community can do is focus on executing the projects that are out there and building a story about the benefits created from those and then use that information to regroup and live to fight another day.”

Angela Cotey







Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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