U.S. Plans $53-Billion High-Speed Rail Network

The Obama administration is proposing to spend $53 billion over the next six years to help promote the construction of a national high-speed, intercity passenger rail network, Vice President Joe Biden announced this week.

The proposal represents a major expansion of the $10.5 billion already spent on high-speed rail expansion since President Obama entered office, including $8 billion in the 2009 economic stimulus package. The national high-speed rail project will be presented in the president’s budget, which he will submit to Congress next week. The plan includes an $8-billion high-speed rail allocation for the coming fiscal year.

President Obama said in last month’s State of the Union address that he was setting a goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. The president said the U.S. infrastructure has “slipped” in recent years.

The proposed new investment would accompany a streamlined application process for cities, states, and private companies seeking federal grants and loans to develop railway capacity.

“There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation—one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said in a written statement. There is a pressing need “to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Biden, who commuted regularly by train between Washington and his home state of Delaware during a 36 year as a U.S. senator, has been a prominent advocate for railway travel and a strong supporter of Amtrak.