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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Conference committee includes $2.5 billion for HSR in FY10 appropriations bill


Yesterday, a House and Senate conference committee approved a fiscal-year 2010 appropriations bill that includes $2.5 billion for high-speed rail. The House had proposed $4 billion for HSR in its version of the bill; the Senate, $1.2 billion.

Of the $2.5 billion, the Federal Railroad Administration would receive $50 million for administration and oversight, and $30 million for HSR research and development.

In addition $50 million could be used for HSR planning; the remainder would go toward corridor development, with an 80/20 federal/local match.

“This will really keep the focus on corridors that are farther along,” says National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association President Chuck Baker. “It’ll likely go to projects in California, Florida, the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Southeast — places that have been working on this for a while, that have plans and have gotten into engineering, buying right of way and building facilities.”

The bill also includes a provision that “recipients of grants … shall conduct all procurement transactions using such grant funds in a manner that provides full and open competition … in compliance with existing labor agreements.”

The provision “insists that [states] do all procurements in an open bid situation, which we [at NRC] think is the best way for recipients to get the best bang for their buck,” says Baker. “It also will make sure that contractors and suppliers are getting a shot to bid on everything — construction, materials, supplies, etc.”

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the appropriations bill soon.

Angela Cotey