Wednesday, February 18, 2009

High Speed Rail Gets $8bn: Obama's Signature Issue in Stimulus Bill

In the final hours of the stimulus bill's negotiations, high-speed rail more than tripled its prior renditions to end up at $8 billion. Critics of the bill tried to cast blame of Sen. majority leader Reid 'earmarking' $8bn in high speed rail funds for a line from LA to Vegas however the real driver seems to have come from the White House. While a few of Obama's 'favorites' were battered through the negotiations (school building, electricity grid upgrade), the high-speed rail push seems to have faced limited opposition, and little knowledge it was coming from Obama. Some of the lessened resistance to the HSR funding seems to come from the vocal opposition (ME and PA Republicans strongly opposed other items in the bill) since their Northeast constituents will likely benefit the most from HSR development.

So, $8bn is a lot of money, right? In U.S. relative terms, yes, this far surpasses any previous investment in HSR. However, it is only the beginning of what will be needed to build a comprehensive HSR network. And, apparently there is more on the way, whereby Obama (per Politico's interview with administration officials) is prepared to add $1bn each of the next 5 years within his initial 2010 budget outline.

What's next? Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is given 60 days to come up with a strategic plan for the funds. The combination of large capital upfront — followed by annual appropriations — fits the prototype for the infrastructure bank once considered for, but never included in, the recovery bill.

Then what? Simply throwing a large chunk of money at HSR is not going to make it successful. It is going to take prudent deployment of these funds but more importantly it is going to take a combination of private investments, human ingenuity and U.S. labor to bring Obama's vision to reality. Some call HSR a pipe dream and mock it as an investment into fairy tale programs to nowhere however these were dreams we let fail more than 25 years ago. Dreams which fell along with the middle-class of our nation and the blue-collar workforce. Dreams are what defined this country's leadership throughout the world and thinking beyond the status quo is what will propel us into the 21st century as a leader the world can respect and join.

Let's get to work, and make good on Obama's Signature Issue of this Stimulus Package! Join POW V High Speed Rail in connecting the corridors and redefine the dreams of PA, OH and WV and the nation they've built before.

Some of the information from this post is sourced from David Rogers' article for Politico.


POW V Management

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