Latest Awards Bring US Closer to National High-Speed Passenger Rail Network

Cross-posted from the Department of Transportation's blog.

This is a big day for the Department of Transportation, for the Obama Administration, and for the American people.  We are bringing President Obama's vision of American high-speed rail one step closer to reality with $2.02 billion in targeted investments.

And I am thrilled.

Today we are advancing President Obama's historic high-speed rail blueprint through 22 carefully selected projects that will create jobs, boost manufacturing, and spur development while laying the foundation for our future economic competitiveness. We are providing two billion dollars to 15 states and Amtrak to help build out America's high-speed rail network, enabling people and goods to travel more quickly, safely and energy-efficiently than ever before.

When DOT announced the competition for these awards in March, we were inundated with 98 applications seeking more than $10 billion.  Americans heard the President's plan to connect 80 percent of the nation to high-speed rail in the next 25 years, and they responded with a loud and clear, "Yes!"

And it's no wonder.  High-speed rail offers significant economic and practical benefits for the states and regions that build these lines and the passengers who ride them.

Already, high-speed rail upgrades are employing workers laying 96 miles of track on the Chicago-St. Louis run.  Workers in Maine are also laying track--welded in America--between Boston and Portland.  And in Sacramento and San Jose, construction workers are building intermodal stations that will be home to California's high-speed corridor.

A strict “Buy America” requirement for high-speed rail projects ensures that U.S. manufacturers and their workers will receive the maximum economic benefits from our investment. In 2009, I also secured a commitment from 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers to employ American workers and locate or expand their base of operations in the U.S. if they are selected for high-speed-rail contracts.

There are other early signs of high-speed rail's economic promise: In Brunswick, Maine, private investment has already gravitated toward the Brunswick Station neighborhood.  Economic development there includes a number of businesses, residential condominiums, a new hotel, and a modern medical center.  And along every planned corridor, cities and towns are clamoring for intermodal rail stations because they know it will boost development in their communities.

High-speed rail service will also help us move goods and people more efficiently.  By 2050, the United States will be home to 100 million additional people.  That's the equivalent of adding another California, Texas, New York, and Florida combined. Our transportation networks simply cannot accommodate that kind of growth, and if we settle for the status quo, our children and grandchildren will remain dependent on foreign oil and continue to suffer from ever-higher gas prices.

High-speed rail can and should complement other forms of transportation to loosen bottlenecks and free up the freight capacity needed to keep our economy firing on all cylinders.

Across the U.S., 32 states and the District of Columbia are already preparing for high-speed rail corridors to link Americans with faster and more energy-efficient travel options. And the dedicated rail grants we're announcing today will:

  • Make an unprecedented investment in the Northeast Corridor, enabling trains to reach speeds between 135 and 160 mph;
  • Expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest, creating 1000 jobs in the construction phase alone building the Chicago-Detroit line;
  • Boost U.S. manufacturing by investing in state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars for California and the Midwest; and
  • Continue laying the groundwork for the nation’s first 220-mph high-speed rail system in California.

For a complete list of projects and their awards, please visit www.dot.gov.

If I sound excited about the prospect of American high-speed rail, it's because I am.   High-speed intercity passenger rail offers real, practical benefits--benefits we cannot afford to ignore.  Jobs, manufacturing, economic development, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and a future economy that can truly serve our population--today's awards bring those benefits one step closer.

Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation.

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