On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) published guidelines for states and regions to apply for federal funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
“The time has finally come for the United States to get serious about building a national network of high-speed rail corridors we can all be proud of,” Secretary Ray LaHood said. “High-speed rail can reduce traffic congestion and link up with light rail, subways and buses to make travel more convenient and our communities more livable.”
The commitment to revitalizing the nation’s rail lines by creating high-speed corridors and improving existing service between cities includes an $8 billion competitive grant program and a continuing $1 billion annual investment proposed in the President’s budget.
Officials from the U.S. DOT and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) met with more than 1,000 people across the country to receive input in preparation for developing the program’s grant application guidelines. Vice President Biden and Secretary LaHood also heard from governors and state transportation chiefs at the White House on June 3 about how they hoped to boost their economies with improved passenger rail service.
The guidelines, which can be found at http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/2243, require rigorous financial and environmental planning to ensure projects are worthy of investment and likely to be successful. The program will offer grants for both planning and construction so that states can apply for funds no matter what stage of development their project is in.
The guidance states that proposals will be considered on the merits of their ability to make trips quicker and more convenient; reduce congestion on highways and at airports; and meet other environmental, energy and safety goals. It also allows the U.S. DOT to actively promote standard specifications for railcars and other equipment.
The FRA will award the first round of grants by mid-September.