Trains For America

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Ohio, Florida plans bolstered by HSR stimulus, perhaps unreasonably so

Even though the $2 billion HSR provision passed as part of the stimulus isn’t a sure thing yet, some state authorities are already getting giddy about getting their project funded. Here’s one about the Ohio HSR plan from MSNBC:

CINCINNATI – County officials have thrown their support behind high-speed rail, in hopes that the stimulus package might help pay for local infrastructure.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has proposal to reestablish a passenger rail connection between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, and rail proponents said some aspects of the plan would qualify for assistance from the federal government.

And Florida, which can’t seem to stick to any one plan for passenger rail in the state:

Local leaders are already working on bringing a commuter rail to Central Florida.

Now the Sunshine State is competing against 10 other states to bring Floridians a high speed rail.
The best part is it won’t cost you a dime.
Thats because the stimulus money would not require a local match.

We were looking for commuter rail. We might end up with high speed rail, said Orange County Commissioner Bill Segal. Its follow the money when the federal government offers money you take it.

Commissioner Segal has been in support of the rail projects.
The commuter rail will be funded by $1.5 million dollars of federal money but now Central Florida is in a good position to grab an even bigger chunk of federal dough through the stimulus package. That money would go to build the high speed rail.
They have to move fast and beat out other states.

“The best part is it won’t cost you a dime”? What? I hate to break it to Florida and Ohio, but $2 billion isn’t a huge amount, and states such as California and the Midwest HSR members have much more concrete plans that are probably going to receive the bulk of the funding. And that’s if this HSR money makes it through conference committee. Still, it’s good that the prospect of stimulus funding is getting people talking. Getting some rapid trains in this country looks like a real possibility in the coming years, but much of it is going to be driven by states. If they don’t get their act together and present solid plans, they’re not going to get any available federal money, and they’ll be left behind.

Filed under: United States High Speed Rail

Obama, now as president, speaks up for high-speed rail

The latest hot gossip in the smart transportation blogs today: Obama’s comments yesterday in Ft. Myers, FL about sprawl, smart growth, and, critically, high-speed rail. Here’s the key quote from Transportation for America, which has the transcript:

It’s imagining new transportation systems. I’d like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to invest in mass transit because potentially that’s energy efficient. And I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally…

The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody… recognizes that’s not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation.

That will make a big difference.

It’s nothing we didn’t hear quite often during the election[1, 2, 3], but it means something more when he’s actually in power. Also, his tying together of intercity rail, transit, and smart growth shows that he’s got someone on his team who has the right idea about 21st century transportation. The comments are reassuring after a lack of administration action making rail a priority in the stimulus, but we’ve still yet to see him take any real action in favor of Amtrak or HSR as president. This year should give him plenty of opportunities, however, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on each one.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, United States High Speed Rail, , , , ,

Stimulus update: rail comes out alright in the Senate

Kerry’s $2 billion high-speed rail provision was left intact. And while rail grants to states were down $50 million to $250 million from the House version, money for Amtrak was up $50 million to $850 million. Nothing’s final until the bill goes into conference committee, but it looks like the money for rail is going to be fine. There’s nothing ambitious or “change-ish” about the transportation aspect of the stimulus, but that’s what we’re looking toward this year’s “highway bill” for.

We’ll be sure to keep track of what happens in conference committee. You just never know.

For more info on the stimulus, and to see how transit didn’t do quite as well as intercity rail, check out the Transport Politic’s excellent article.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics

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