Now actually news, but something you need to take in. It is a lengthy Politico piece on the HSR negotiations. Disclaimer: Amtrak seems to consider anything over 100 mph. as HSR. (Hope I got that right.) Anyway, here is the story.
Big hurdles remain. Critics already argue that the money is misplaced in a stimulus bill since it will be hard to spend quickly. Much depends on winning the cooperation of Class 1 freight lines that control many of the rights of way outside the Northeast.
But it is a landmark transportation investment with regional effects in almost every corner of the nation. Just last October, former President George W. Bush signed a bill authorizing up to $1.5 billion for high-speed rail through 2013. Obama’s commitment in the same period will be eight times that.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is given 60 days to come up with a strategic plan for the funds. The combination of large capital upfront — followed by annual appropriations — fits the prototype for the infrastructure bank once considered for, but never included in, the recovery bill.
“High-speed rail is the infrastructure bank,” said Emanuel, and the legislation gives LaHood discretion to assign “priority to projects that support the development of intercity high-speed rail service.”
There is some precedent. At the height of the New Deal, FDR’s Public Works Administration played a role in persuading the Pennsylvania Railroad to complete the electrification of its Washington-New York line and finish Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. Today, the government could make capital investments that both benefit freight operations and facilitate high-speed passenger service. With the drop in freight traffic, the railroads might be more cooperative, although they are sure to want some liability protection for accidents.