On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood challenged governors to think boldly when designing high-speed rail plans during a roundtable discussion at the White House. The session was an opportunity for state leaders to share their ideas with the Obama administration about the future of high-speed trains in America.
In April, President Obama released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high-speed rail. The plan identifies $13 billion in federal funds — $8 billion in the Recovery Act and $5 billion requested in the President’s budget — to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. Detailed guidance for up to the first $8 billion in federal grant applications will be announced later this month and the first round of grants are expected to be awarded as soon as late summer 2009.
Wednesday’s roundtable follows Secretary LaHood’s recent fact-finding trip to several European countries where he met with transportation officials and rail operators and witnessed first-hand the operations of working high-speed rail systems. Other senior U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) officials recently hosted a series of seven regional workshops around the country.
“Everyone knows I’m a big believer in our nation’s rail system — I’ve devoted a big part of my career doing what I can to support it — and I’m proud that this administration is about to transform that system fundamentally,” said Vice President Biden. “Thanks to an $8 billion investment from the Recovery Act, we’re going to start building a high-speed rail system that will loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways, and make travel in this country leaner, meaner and a whole lot cleaner.”
Roundtable attendants included: Governors Pat Quinn, Illinois; Sonny Perdue, Georgia; Deval Patrick, Massachusetts; Jennifer Granholm, Michigan; Jay Nixon, Missouri; Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania; Tim Kaine, Virginia; and Jim Doyle, Wisconsin. In addition, state transportation officials from California, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Rhode Island and West Virginia also attended.