WASHINGTON — Officials in the Obama administration on Tuesday announced plans to spend $53 billion over six years to finance the construction of a national high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail network.
The president will request $8 billion for high-speed rail in his fiscal 2012 budget request, which is due to be released on Monday. Those funds would come on top of $10.5 billion the administration already provided to high-speed rail, including $8 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and $2.5 billion from the fiscal 2010 budget.
The goal of the program, which was announced by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Philadelphia, is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as Obama outlined in his State of the Union address.
The investments would be made to develop or improve three types of interconnected corridors.
Core express corridors would form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-150 miles per hour or higher. Regional corridors would have trains running at speeds of 90-125 miles per hour and would lay the foundation for future high-speed rail service. Emerging corridors would have trains traveling at up to 90 miles per hour and would access the larger national high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail network.
The corridors would be identified by the Department of Transportation, which would consult with states, the freight rail industry and private companies, according to administration officials.
The DOT’s rail programs also would be streamlined to make it simpler for states, cities, and private companies to apply for grants and loans.
For the first time, these programs would be consolidated into two accounts: $4 billion for network development that is focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment, and $4 billion for system preservation and renewal, which would maintain state of good repair on Amtrak and other publicly owned assets as well as provide temporary operating support to state corridors while the overall system is being built.