Friday, November 18, 2011

Congress kills funding for Obama's high-speed rail

The House and Senate voted today to eliminate most of the $8 billion that President Obama sought next year for his vision of nationwide high-speed rail.

Republicans trumpeted what they said was the death of the president's six-year, $53 billion plan, saying the future of fast trains lies along the Northeast Corridor, The Hill writes. The funding was eliminated in a deal with Democrats on a spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies. The measure cleared the House by 298-121 and the Senate by 70-30 on its way to Obama's desk.

"Today's vote marks the end to President Obama's misguided high-speed rail program, but it also represents a new beginning for true intercity high-speed passenger rail service in America," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said in a statement.

The Associated Press points out, however, that "billions of dollars still in the pipeline will ensure work will continue on some projects. And it's still possible money from another transportation grant program can be steered to high-speed trains."

California was hoping for several billion dollars to keep its plans on track for what could be the nation's first genuine bullet-train network, with trains reaching 220 mph. Construction on the first phase, between Fresno and Bakersfield, is expected to start next year and be finished in three to five years, the San Francisco Chronicle notes. The price tag is $6 billion: $3.3 billion from Washington and $2.7 billion in state bonds.