Biden announces $53 billion high-speed rail initiative

In April 16, 2009, I reported the following to you:

…President Obama gave a brilliant speech on the necessity of high-speed rail in the United States. And, in addition to the $8 billion already set aside for such projects in the stimulus bill, he suggested that we add an additional $1 billion per year for the next 5 years…

In that post, I included the following map, which had been shared by the President.


Since then, a few things have changed. The rail corridors proposed by the Obama administration have shifted a bit, as you can see in the image below, which reflects the current plan, but, most notably, the dollar figures have grown considerably. Vice President Biden announced yesterday that the administration would be seeking $8 billion for high speed rail in this year’s budget alone, with the intention of spending a total of $53 billion over six years. The following clip is from the Wall Street Journal.

…Mr. Biden, along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, announced the plan at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The six-year program is designed to give 80% of Americans access to passenger-rail service within 25 years—a goal President Barack Obama set in his State of the Union Address—and to create jobs.

“In a global economy, we can’t forget that infrastructure is also the veins and the arteries of commerce,” Mr. Biden said. He frequently travels between his home state of Delaware and Washington on Amtrak trains.

The administration has already devoted $10.5 billion to passenger-rail programs, with the bulk of the funds going toward California and Florida high-speed rail projects that are currently in the planning stage.

Under the new plan, the administration would provide $8 billion for passenger-rail projects in this year’s budget, set to be released next week.

The plan faces hurdles, including how future funding will be paid for and whether it can gain enough support in Congress. Republicans have criticized rail projects as wasteful spending and have called for canceling rail construction as part of a broader plan to reduce the deficit…

Here’s the new route map. As I understand it, the segments shown in red are those slated to receive federal funding.


As Republicans in Congress don’t seem supportive of the plan, however, it’s unclear at this point whether or not it will come to fruition. As we’ve discussed in the past, the new Tea Party supported Governors of both Ohio and Wisconsin, unwilling to match the federal dollars awarded to their states for high speed rail projects, as was required, have already returned their funds, which have in turn been redirected toward the funding of lines in California and Florida. To my knowledge, our new Governor, Rick Snyder, has yet to weigh in on whether or not he’s a train-loving, car-hating socialist. It’s also unclear at this point how much he’d be able to influence things anyway.

As it stands, the bill that passed the Michigan House last year, which would have made funds available to meet the match, is dead. It died by neglect in Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop refused to bring it to a vote. So, this legislative session it was reintroduced by Representative Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City. (It’s now HB 4035.) But, it’s yet to pass through committee, let alone the full House. And, then, assuming it passed the Michigan House, it would still have to make it though the Republican controlled Senate.

For more details on the current situation in Michigan, I’d encourage you to read our last discussion on the subject, which includes a list of people you can send letters to, as well as a number of Republican arguments in favor of building out our high speed rail infrastructure, which might come in useful in said letters.

The way I see it, Ohio and Wisconsin, by turning down these federal rail projects have just opted out of modernity. And, it looks as though Florida may be joining them. According to the Wall Street Journal article linked to above, “Florida’s new Republican governor has said he is reviewing whether plans for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando are viable.”

Speaking of Florida, I’d say it’s pretty clear that they’re fucked. But, I guess that’s what you get when you knowingly elect the CEO of a company found guilty of fraud. (You can see his laughably pathetic deposition here.) But, that’s what the good people of Florida wanted, and now they’re reaping the benefits, and getting what they deserve. Here, with more on that, is a clip from Think Progress:

Today, at a Tea Party event in tiny Eustis, Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) unveiled his new state budget. Since his time on the campaign trail, Scott has been promising to pair steep budget cuts with reductions in both the corporate and property tax rates. “It’s not daunting. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting,” Scott said when asked about tackling his state’s budget woes. He has said that he plans to make Florida the “most fiscally conservative” state in the nation…

His “fu” plan, by the way, entails cutting an additional $700 million in Florida corporate income taxes, while, at the same time, severely cutting social services. (Florida, it should be pointed out, already has one of the country’s lowest corporate tax rates.) Here’s another clip from Think Progress.

…Scott already presides over a state with one of the most regressive tax systems in the country. The average tax rate on a low-income individual in Florida is 13.5 percent, while the average tax rate on the someone in the richest one percent of Floridians is a paltry 2.6 percent. Instead of finding new sources of revenue, Scott decided to cut into services designed to help those who are already bearing the burden of financing the state, while lavishing tax breaks on corporations…

And, here, back to high-speed passenger rail, is a close-up of our proposed midwestern high-speed train network, which is being referred to as the Chicago hub.

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  1. Posted February 10, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    A correction needed, where you talk about the status of the Michigan match legislation – you’re referring to the 2010 legislation, passed in the State House, dead by inattention in the State Senate. When we changed legislative sessions, over the new year, all the old/pending legislation got wiped out and started over.

    Rep. Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City has reintroduced the bill, now HB 4035, but it has yet to even pass through committee, let alone the full House. You’re crediting Senator Richardville with the stalling that was done by Mike Bishop, who is now out, due to term limits. Let’s keep credit/blame where it’s due.

  2. Edward
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    If Michigan fucks this up, I’m gone. That’ll be the last straw.

    Thank you for the clarification, Murph.

  3. Eel
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    What’s that, Adam Smith, you have something to say about regressive taxation?

  4. Oliva
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Edward, where will you go? Am just curious. (Sure do love my neighbors and town and other people and places ’round here. But I share your frustration. Patience is so damn hard; these backslidings get so discouraging.)

  5. Posted February 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Murph. I will make the correction…. It makes me happy to know that someone is out there, error checking.

  6. Posted February 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to link to it tonight, but Obama was in Michigan today, talking about trains and high speed internet connectivity.

  7. Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I just heard that Rick Scott gave the $1+ billion that had been offered to Florida back to the feds. Hopefully some of it comes our way… Here’s hoping that Governor Snyder doesn’t screw things up tomorrow night when he unveils his budget.

  8. EOS
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Not only would the state have to come up with the funds to match the Federal contribution for construction, but would also be expected to provide the $10 million annually to subsidize operation costs. The Governor is expected to announce cuts of 20 – 25% for higher education and reduce pensions, among an assortment of other painful but necessary cuts. It’s hard to justify such an enormous expense for an extremely small percentage of our population to ride a fast train to Chicago.

  9. Edward
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Some new news pertaining to Florida high speed rail.

    In a remarkable admission, Rick Scott’s legal counsel Thursday told the Florida Supreme Court that he misled justices on the amount of money already spent on the state’s high-speed rail project — a key detail that may have helped cinch the governor’s victory in a constitutional tug-of-war.

    In a two-page letter to Chief Justice Charles Canady, Scott’s general counsel, Charles Trippe, acknowledged that last month he misrepresented a central fact in arguments supporting the governor’s rejection of $2.4 billion in federal funds for the project linking Tampa with Orlando.

    Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, one of two senators who sued Scott saying he had exceeded his constitutional authority in killing the project, said Thursday evening that Trippe’s letter is a “huge admission.”

    “It’s a material misrepresentation of the facts in this case,” Altman said. “We knew (Trippe) was wrong when he said it in court. But we couldn’t stop him from saying it.”

    In the letter, Trippe admitted he was wrong when he told justices that $110 million of the $130 million authorized by the Florida Legislature for the project approved in 2009 had already been spent.

    Instead, Trippe said only $31 million had actually been spent — a major gap that appears to have shaped the court’s decision that sided with Scott.

  10. Edward
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Fucking Republicans.

    WASHINGTON – Congress is on the verge of killing funding for President Barack Obama’s signature high-speed rail program, but it may have some life in it still.

    Republican lawmakers are claiming credit for killing the program. But billions of dollars still in the pipeline will ensure work will continue on some projects. And it’s still possible money from another transportation grant program can be steered to high-speed trains.

    Obama had requested $8 billion in fiscal 2012 for the program, and $53 billion over six years. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a measure this week that eliminates any funding specifically for high-speed trains. Final passage of the bill, which funds day-to-day operations at the Transportation Department and several other agencies in fiscal 2012, is expected Thursday in the House and Friday in the Senate.

    Republicans have made it clear since taking control of the House last year that they intended to eliminate the program, which they say is too costly.

    The bill marks “an end to the president’s misguided high-speed rail program, but it is not the end of American high-speed rail,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s railroad subcommittee.

    Read more:

  11. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    They, the fucking republicans, want to either destroy or set back any green initiatives by the Obama administration. They prefer to support the corporations that dump oil and coal ash into the great lakes and refer to anyone with progressive energy ideas or alternatives as loonies from the left. Same goes for their false portrayals of OWS. 2 steps forward and a decade of steps backwards.

  12. Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Note that this action by Congress does not / would not affect Michigan’s projects underway — only the availability of additional funding in the next couple of years.

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