High speed scramble
USA: As expected, the decision by the Obama administration to allocate $8bn of stimulus funding for high speed rail development, followed by $5bn from the transport budget over the next five years, has triggered a flood of interest across the country.
Earlier this year the federal government invited proposals and project applications from state and regional bodies. On July 29, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood reported that no less than 278 preliminary applications had been received from 40 states and the District of Columbia with a total price tag of $102bn. By region, there were 79 from the Northeast, 44 from the South/Southeast, 47 in the Midwest and no less than 108 from the West.
‘The response has been tremendous and shows that the country is ready for high speed rail’, said LaHood. ‘It’s time to look beyond our highways and invest in public transportation services like rail, which will enhance regional mobility and reduce our carbon footprint.’
With the definition of ‘high speed’ drawn wide enough to include 145 km/h inter-city trains on conventional mixed-traffic routes, many states have submitted a variety of rail proposals in the hope that at least one might qualify. DoT has made it clear that ‘not all proposed projects can be funded’, but it will work with states and regions ‘to identify priorities’ so that the first grants can be announced before the end of this year.