Obama’s rail investment

Politico has an article today on Obama’s rail strategy that I think some of you might like. Here’s how the piece begins:

Railroads made Chicago, and now a Chicago-rich White House wants to return the favor: remaking rail with a huge new federal investment in high-speed passenger trains.

The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

It’s a sum that far surpasses anything before attempted in the United States — and more is coming. Administration officials told Politico that when Obama outlines his 2010 budget next week, it will ask for $1 billion more for high-speed rail in each of the next five years…

This, I don’t think I have to tell you, is incredibly good news.

I do have a question, though… How far will $13 billion go? Will it build us a comprehensive, new rail infrastructure capable of moving a significant portion of the freight that’s now carried over-the-road? Or, is this just enough money to fund a pet project or two, like Harry Reid’s dream project of high-speed rail connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas?

Michigan Congresswoman Candice S. Miller, a Republican, voted against the stimulus bill Friday, and credited her decision to this particular component, which see described as Democratic pork for Reid. She’s quoted by Politico as saying:

“Michigan is a state of about 10 million people, and we are the hardest hit, as I said, by this economy. And yet we are expected to get approximately $7 billion from this bill. And apparently the Senate majority leader has earmarked $8 billion for a rail system from Las Vegas to Los Angeles? You have got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding.”

I haven’t read the final wording of the bill yet to see if she’s right. If she is – and if all of this money would be going toward rail between LA and Las Vegas – I’d be inclined to agree with her. My hope, however, is that Obama is smart enough not to spend all of the money building high-speed rail to a desert gambling community, which, with all due respect, shouldn’t even exist…. Anyone who has the facts on this, I’d love to hear what they are.

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9 Comments

  1. dragon
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Harry Reid had nothing to do with this.
    The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
    “I put it in there for the president,” Emanuel said in an interview. “The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future.”

    In fact, there’s little evidence that Reid had a decisive role, although he was happy to see his name mentioned for the sake of voters at home.
    “It’s amazing. I’m stunned,” he said in an interview Friday, hours before the bill passed Congress. “I’m glad I get the credit in Nevada, but this is Obama’s No. 1 priority. This is his legacy issue out of this bill, because we need these high-speed corridors. … I’ll take credit but frankly didn’t have much to do with it other than carry forward with what Obama wanted.”

  2. Paw
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I read the article, and I’m still not clear on the rail line to Las Vegas. It does say that Reid had nothing to do with the insertion of the $8 billion for high speed rail, but it doesn’t say that the LA-Las Vegas rail project wasn’t specified as a recipient of the funds. From what Candice Miller says, it’s in there. I don’t know that I trust Candice Miller, though.

  3. dragon
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    There is no “high speed rail project” in the bill. There is funding of $8b for HSR projects to be proposed by the authorities in the designated corridors … crybaby John Boehner has a designated corridor running through his district, while Nevada does not have a designated corridor.

    Unlike the limp-wristed impact of corporate tax breaks, the spending on HSR is genuine stimulus spending … but no matter how many times the Republican noise machine repeats the myth, Nevada does not have a designated corridor, … no designation, no share of the $8b.

  4. Steven
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Is there somewhere that we could see a list of these designated corridors? Do any go through Detroit? Is there any way to tie in the local Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti rail lines being discussed?

  5. Robert
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Throwing money into high-speed rail at this point is pretty stupid. A rail line between LA and Las Vegas would kill as much business and as many jobs as it could possibly create. The east coast corridor between Boston and DC is the only place where expansion might be necessary.

    What we need to be doing is directing as much of our funds as possible toward those infrastructure projects which create the maximum of decent paying jobs, and which result in the creation or maintenance of infrastructure elements which are GUARANTEED to payoff (or save us money) in the relatively near future.

    Just setting up a comprehensive carpooling system in Metro Detroit would save untold millions, and it would require very little investment of public funds which are desperately needed elsewhere.

  6. Kevin Dole
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    No mention of Vegas of LA. Read it here:
    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_record&docid=cr12fe09-146

    For an additional amount for section 501 of Public Law 110-
    432 and discretionary grants to States to pay for the cost of
    projects described in paragraphs (2)(A) and (2)(B) of section
    24401 of title 49, United States Code, subsection (b) of
    section 24105 of such title, $8,000,000,000, to remain
    available through September 30, 2012: Provided, That the
    Secretary of Transportation shall give priority to projects
    that support the development of intercity high speed rail
    service: Provided further, That within 60 days of the
    enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the
    House and Senate Committees on Appropriations a strategic
    plan that describes how the Secretary will use the funding
    provided under this heading to improve and deploy high speed
    passenger rail systems: Provided further, That within 120
    days of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue
    interim guidance to applicants covering grant terms,
    conditions, and procedures until final regulations are
    issued: Provided further, That such interim guidance shall
    provide separate instructions for the high speed rail
    corridor program, capital assistance for intercity passenger
    rail service grants, and congestion grants: Provided further,
    That the Secretary shall waive the requirement that a project
    conducted using funds provided under this heading be in a
    State rail plan developed under chapter 227 of title 49,
    United States Code: Provided further, That the Federal share
    payable of the costs for which a grant is made under this
    heading shall be, at the option of the recipient, up to 100
    percent: Provided further, That projects conducted using
    funds provided under this heading must comply with the
    requirements of subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40,
    United States Code: Provided further, That section 24405 of
    title 49, United States Code, shall apply to funds provided
    under this heading: Provided further, That the Administrator
    of the Federal Railroad Administration may retain up to one-
    quarter of 1 percent of the funds provided under this heading
    to fund the award and oversight by the Administrator of
    grants made under this heading, and funds retained for said
    purposes shall remain available through September 30, 2014.

    Recovery.gov is now online. How cool is that?

  7. dragon
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    There are supposedly 10 designated high-speed rail corridors. Detroit to Chicago is one of them, so the Michigan representatives complaining about $8 billion for high-speed rail (a paltry sum, but it’s at least a start) are complaining about a project that would directly benefit the state of Michigan.

  8. applejack
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    http://images.huffingtonpost.com/gen/64309/original.jpg

    here’s a map of the designated rail corridors from huffingtonpost. the detroit – chicago route looks like it’ll go through ann arbor/ypsi.
    does anyone know how or why these particular routes have been designated for high-speed rail and not others?

  9. Posted February 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Because there is a high concentration of rich white people.

One Trackback

  1. By High Speed Rail lines identified by Stimulus on February 18, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    […] night, we started a conversation here about the high-speed rail lines being funded by the recently passed stimulus package. I was unclear […]

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