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The Washington Independent

White House Sprinkles High-Speed Rail Money Across the Country

The White House just announced its plan to spend $8 billion on high-speed rail, and it looks ... pretty diluted. The biggest chunk of cash -- $2.25 billion

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jan 28, 2010

The White House just announced its plan to spend $8 billion on high-speed rail, and it looks … pretty diluted.

The biggest chunk of cash — $2.25 billion — will go toward California’s planned rail line connecting Los Angeles to the Bay Area. But as Brad Plumer points out, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) had hoped for twice that amount, and the project is expected to cost $42 billion total. Next comes $1.25 billion for an Orlando-Tampa line — Obama is in Tampa today to make the announcement — followed by $1.1 billion for a St. Louis-Chicago line. (See the full map of projects below.)

None of these cash amounts will actually be enough to build the lines, of course. And things get messier as you go further down the list. The Northeast Corridor, for instance — where the utility of trains is already well proven and a high-speed line from Washington to Boston would generate tremendous excitement — only gets $112 million, while the car-dominated state of Texas receives a mere $4 million.

But that won’t stop Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood from getting downright giddy. On his Facebook page, he writes, “TODAY is the day! Welcome to the age of American High-Speed Rail, brought to you by President Obama and the Recovery Act.” And his blog is full of lofty praise, with lines such as, “I’ve said it before, and I believe it even more today: this is an absolute game-changer for American transportation” and “Today, as promised, we change the game.” He also includes a brief explanation of how these particular projects were selected:

Now, the particular investments we’re making today–they make sense. We’re connecting cities that are too close for efficient air travel but–with the highways connecting these cities nearly choked beyond capacity–too far for productive road travel. Cities like St. Louis and Chicago.

Here’s a map of the projects, with a breakdown of where the money will be spent. Click to enlarge:

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Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


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