published Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Obama to call for $53 billion for high-speed rail

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jump-start job creation.

An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 miles per hour, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn’t say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it’s likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.

Obama’s push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new spending on infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month’s State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

Joe Ferguson, who has spearheaded much of the effort to get a high-speed line from Atlanta to Chattanooga as manager of special projects for the Enterprise Center, said he didn’t have any “inside information,” but said the president’s announcement could only help the local project.

Not long ago, the potential Chattanooga-Atlanta line was added to the high speed rail map on the White House web site as part of the Miami to Chicago route.

“That’s been the pitch we’ve had all along,” Ferguson said. “That’s what we’ve said this line should be.”

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mrredskin said...

can't say i've ever heard of a "nillion". is that what our defecit is now??

February 8, 2011 at 4 p.m.
DEB said...


February 8, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.
alohaboy said...

Neither Obama nor Ferguson can make a high speed rail between Atlanta and Chattanooga a viable operation, with or without Chicago and Miami.

February 8, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.
SmartOne said...

High-speed rail is an inevitable requirement for infrastructure. With both automobile and air travel at such huge levels, HSR would relieve congestion in both avenues. A rail system would allow users to travel short distances quicker than by car or air (in part because of shorter security wait), as well as moving people more efficiently (more people can be moved by HSR in a set amount of time relative to the number that could travel a similar distance in a car).

Either way, HSR is going to be a necessary expense for the federal government in the coming years, much the same way the interstate system was a necessary expense. Private companies are not likely to invest the hundreds of billions of dollars that it will take to make a feasible network. This is where the government steps in; pay the cost of building the infrastructure, then either sell off the track to private companies (subsequently, they can lease the track to other companies for use) or place a (small) surcharge on each train ticket to offset the original cost of construction, or both.

Urban sustainability theorist J.H. Crawford has suggested using the existing infrastructure of the interstate highways as a base for construction. While there are some points I disagree with him on (decreasing the highway speed limit, conversion of 4-lane highways to 2-lanes), it is a good starting point for finding a cheaper way to construct a high-speed rail system using existing infrastructure. (See:

February 8, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
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