Posted 15th October 2009 | 2 Comments

US enthusiasm for High Speed threatens to break the bank of Obama’s rail budget

While the UK government’s proposals for domestic High Speed lines won’t be known until the end of this year, dozens of projects have been put forward in the United States following President Obama’s planned investment of $8bn (£5bn) to stimulate rail projects.

As part of the US anti-recession budget, President Obama pushed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This included $8bn to encourage development of High Speed rail projects  — but the projects now proposed amount to seven times the original budget allocation, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The FRA says it has received a total of 259 grant applications from 34 different states requesting a total of $57bn (£36bn).

The size of the total seems to have taken Washington by surprise: the Obama administration says it is now delaying decisions on how High Speed rail projects might go forward, and no date has been announced.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Transportation has reported attempts to defraud potential recipients of grants under the Recovery Act, with requests for confidential financial information which appear to come from the government. The DOT said it is working with law enforcement agencies to track down those responsible.

Reader Comments:

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  • Lorentz, London

    If I recall correctly, this money was supposed to be distributed over a seven year period as well. Pretty obvious that it was no more than an election campaign item. The same figure would not even have paid for HS1 in the UK.

  • Brian Eastwood, Richmond VA, USA

    Obama is in a muddle of his own making. He does not have a strategic policy to "reinvent" long distance ir intercity railway travel, His inclusion of some money in the Recovery Act was a late development probably forced on him by Joe Biden and the amount involved, though not insignificant, means that it is no more than a gesture. The Transport secretary Ray LaHood is still saying the right things about railways,but so far has not taken the necessary action to enable a new policy to become reality by a complete overhaul of the spending budget of his department. It does not matter what is said or promised if you do not have the budget to to with it.