Monday, August 10, 2009

News on federal passenger rail policy and developments from the Nation's Capitol

The Capitol Limited
(from the latest issue of Fast Mail for Rail)

FRA Receives 278 Pre-Applications for High Speed Rail: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has received 278 pre-applications for grant funding totaling $102 billion. The money will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail competitive grant program.

Amtrak Unveils First Rebuilt Passenger Car from ARRA Investment: Passenger car no. 25103, damaged a few years ago in a yard collision but now completely refurbished - complete with that "new car" interior smell - was shown off at Amtrak's maintenance facility in Bear, Del. More than 100 hard-hatted workers joined Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman in celebrating completion of its restoration.

Senate Approves $150 Million Appropriation for Washington (D.C.) Metro: The Senate Appropriations Committee included $150 million for Metro in a spending bill for the next fiscal year. The House approved a spending bill last week that includes the money. On Tuesday night, by unanimous consent, the Senate approved a change in Metro's compact that allows the agency to receive federal funds.

Analysis: High Speed Rail Supports American Business: Whether you agree or disagree with the premise of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it is clear that higher-speed rail most completely fulfills the goals of ARRA. Government is often criticized for spending money on projects that generate no economic benefit. If the numbers above are accurate, high speed rail can generate more than $8 in private investment for each public dollar spent.

Analysis: Might Delay in High Speed Rail Allow for Better Projects?: Now the U.S. is in a great position to take advantage of being late to the game by eliminating common challenges faced by those who preceded us, such as the improper maintenance of sensors on tracks or not being able to respond to major sporting or weather events when scheduling trains through the largest cities. Just observing what has and hasn't worked in other places can save the U.S. billions of dollars as we build our high-speed passenger rail systems. This savings can be critical, considering the tight budgets the states will be working with.

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