Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

David Dean, Dean International: Paying for the Texas “T-Bone” high speed rail

Recorded on June 18, 2009 using a Flip Video camcorder. I interviewed Mr. Dean during a break in day two of the Texas High Speed Rail meeting in Little Rock. I asked about about financing for high speed rail.

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Joe Philipp, Chair National Multi-Modal Transportation Committee

Recorded on June 18, 2009 using a Flip Video camcorder. Joe Philipp, Chair National Multi-Modal Transportation Committee, presided over the afternoon meeting in Little Rock. We heard a lot about transportation priorities. The group is putting forward a new document titled “The Future of the United States Infrastructure System: A Strategic Way Forward.” During this session, we also heard about the major transportation overhaul proposed by Rep. Oberstar. All those in attendance favored the Oberstar approach over the Obama administration temporary fix concept. I asked Mr. Philipp the obvious political questions. Judge the answer for yourself.

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Melissa Taylor Comments on Atlanta-Chattanooga-Nashville high speed rail and maglev

Recorded on June 18, 2009 using a Flip Video camcorder. Melissa D, Taylor is Director of Transportation Planning for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. She comments on the Chinese maglev and developments in Tennessee.

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HSR stimulus guidelines lay out federal objectives, aim for grants in late summer

The US DOT has released its criteria for the evaluation of HSR programs to be funded through the federal stimulus money. The official release is your typical government-issue dense packet of 68 pages, and it offers no real surprises. Funds will be distributed beginning in September/October, depending on the type of project. Streetsblog has a nice summary:

Here’s where things get a bit complicated, because high-speed rail aid has been split into four tracks.

The first two use stimulus money for projects and programs, and the second two use money from the annual congressional appropriations process for planning and project execution. In fact, DOT’s guidance says the first two tracks of money — the $8 billion popularly referred to as high-speed rail stimulus money — may not be paid out in full this year, “to allow for potential future rounds of solicitations and awards which occur after 2009.”

The first track of stimulus money is aimed at “shovel-ready” projects that are supportive of high-speed rail development. For these funds, economic benefits (read: job creation) is the No. 1 criterion, followed by general transportation benefits at No. 2.

Saving energy, promoting sustainable development and discouraging fossil fuel use — what DOT calls “other public benefits” — is ranked No. 6 out of six priorities for this first track of stimulus money. For the second track of stimulus money, reserved for longer-term work that’s not primarily aimed at economic recovery, “other public benefits” is priority No. 2.

As we’ve seen over the past few months, different state and regional projects are in varying states of readiness… from “shovel-ready” to complete disarray. The different “tracks” hence make a good deal of sense. The CAHSR blog points to Associated Press’s brief assertion that the program favors the California and Midwest projects, which is hardly surprising given the organization and publicity of these two plans, regardless of these new guidelines. Indeed, the release does seem to pay particular attention to grander projects that focus on multiple lines, corridors, cities, and states. That would include the Midwest proposal as well as the “Texas T-Bone” that Pat has been covering for TFA in Arkansas. But it’s all mostly conjecture until the actual funds are allocated at the end of the summer… now that will be interesting.

Filed under: United States High Speed Rail

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June 2009