February 8, 2011

Obama proposes spending $53B on high-speed rail

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As part of his initiative to use infrastructure spending to jump-start job creation and increase America’s competitiveness, President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, the Associated Press reports.

An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Feb. 14. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or upgrading trains that travel up to 250 miles per hour, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. For the full story, click here.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) expressed extreme reservations regarding the Obama Administration's plan.

"With the first $10.5 billion in Administration rail grants, we found that 1) the Federal Railroad Administration is neither a capable grant agency, nor should it be involved in the selection of projects, 2) what the Administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere, and 3) Amtrak hijacked 76 of the 78 projects, most of them costly and some already rejected by state agencies," said Mica. "Rather than focusing on the Northeast Corridor, the most congested corridor in the nation and the only corridor owned by the federal government, the Administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects."

Chairman Shuster added: "The Administration continues to fail in attracting private investment, capital and the experience to properly develop and cost-effectively operate true high-speed rail. They have also ignored my provision in law that calls for competition on money-losing Amtrak routes. The Committee plans to investigate how previous funding decisions were made. I have no problem with sound investments in alternative transportation projects, but selecting routes behind closed doors runs counter to the Administration's pledges of transparency. I am concerned that without appropriate controls to ensure the most worthy projects are the ones that receive funding, high-speed rail funding could become another political grab bag for the President."

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