Wednesday, January 27, 2010

President to announce $8b boost to high speed rail

The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama will announce $8 billion in stimulus funds for the creation of high speed rail corridors tomorrow during a trip to Florida. He will also tout the project as a job creator/saver for tens of thousands of workers.

The President will be joined by VP Biden in Florida to announce the infrastructure project, which leads the AP to speculate that " a high-speed line connecting Orlando and Tampa is likely to receive funding."

The AP reports that the funds will go to 13 new projects and some smaller improvements to benefit 31 states. No word yet if Maryland is among those states, but I'd venture a guess that Amtrak's Northeast corridor will be a beneficiary of funds for improvement, which will at least indirectly improve travel for Maryland rail users.

In an interview last fall rail guru Rafi Guroian told Stuck on MARC that commuter systems like MARC would benefit from upgrades to high speed rail. Here's the exchange:
Q: When I was listening to Obama and Biden tout the high speed rail portion of stimulus money I wondered why they aren’t supporting commuter rails since it’s a very middle class initiative and enjoys increasing ridership.
A: You’ll have to ask them, but I can tell you that any money that goes to high speed rail is almost certainly going to benefit commuter rail that exists or may exist because it’s going to piggyback on that infrastructure. I think your money is better spent on inner city passenger rail improvements, because not only will you cover Amtrak services, but any commuter services that exist are going to be able to run at faster speed. If they don’t exist the environment may be created where they’re realistic where they weren’t before.

Q: So you’re optimistic about a potential piggyback?
A: Yeah. My worry is there’s not enough money. It’s like throwing a little piece of meat into a piranha tank and everybody wants it.
I'll send an email to Rafi today with a link to the story to get his take on how the announcement might affect the MARC system.

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