States all around the country see themselves as likely qualifying for HSR grants, but we’ll have to wait a few months to see which projects get funding
The economic stimulus bill included $8 billion for high-speed rail projects. Though Republicans continue to repeat the lie that the funding has already been earmarked for a maglev project between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the truth is that there are a large number of corridors around the country that are likely to apply for funds. Here are the projects whose sponsors have mentioned in the news as being interested in applying for the funds (no specific order here):
- California High-Speed Rail Project – First phase of the project would connect Anaheim and San Francisco, via Los Angeles, Fresno, Bakersfield, and San Jose. The State Authority managing the project will ask for $2 billion of the funds to be used for construction before 2012, for grade separations, right-of-way purchase, construction grading, and electrification of lines between San Francisco and San Jose (for Caltrain, too) (Progressive Railroading).
- Texas T-Bone Project – Project is less defined and funds would probably be used for engineering purposes; it would connect Dallas with San Antonio, via Austin, and Temple and Houston (Temple Daily).
- Florida High-Speed Rail Project – Project connecting Orlando with Tampa and Miami was close to realization in early 2000s, but after failure on a referendum, group hasn’t met since 2005. First leg connecting Orlando Airport, downtown Orlando, Disney World, Lakeland, and Tampa would have cost $2 billion, construction could begin in 12 to 18 months, last three to four years, and provide trains running at 120 mph maximum (MSNBC).
- Washington-Oregon Cascades Corridor – Very limited Quite a bit of planning thus far for the corridor running from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia, via Portland and Seattle, but; states could be interested in asking for funds to upgrade and speed up the line (Cascadia Prospectus).
- Southeast High-Speed Rail – Project, running from Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, via Richmond and Raleigh, is more advanced than most others in this list, with environmental impact statements already completed; strong support from Virginia and North Carolina would mean that 110 mph trains could be running in 4 years with funds (News and Observer).
- New York High-Speed Rail – $10 billion project would connect New York City with Buffalo, via Albany and Rochester. Project has not been planned, so funds would go to engineering and slight upgrades, like double tracking and sidings (Binghamton Press).
- Midwest High-Speed Rail – First leg of the Midwest HSR project would connect Chicago to St. Louis, via downstate Illinois. Incremental improvements could increase speeds to around 100 mph; project might be aided by the fact that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is from Peoria, which is near the line (Pantagraph).
- Michigan High-Speed Rail – The state of Michigan would like to improve existing rail between Detroit and Chicago; this project would not be true high-speed rail and would likely focus on small improvements to the line (Free Press).
- Minnesota/Wisconsin High-Speed Rail – Project, which has received avid support from the governor of Wisconsin, would connect Chicago with Milwaukee and the Twin Cities; most of the funds would likely go to corridor enhancements, especially between Milwaukee and Chicago (Star Tribune).
- Ohio 3C Corridor – State project would connect Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, a line that was deactivated years ago; this would not be true high-speed rail (Plain Dealer).
- Pittsburgh Maglev Project: 54-mile project would cost a total of $3.75 billion and run from Pittsburgh’s airport to the city center and then to suburban Monroeville and Greensburg, PA; private project proponents claim that phase one between the airport and downtown could be completed in 2.5 years (WTAE-TV).
- Las Vegas – Los Angeles Maglev – $12 billion project, which has received so much GOP criticism could begin first phase within 18 months and would be run by a private company. (Associated Press).
All of the projects listed above have been already considered by the federal government, either through its designated high-speed rail corridors program or its maglev demonstration program. All the projects listed above are in the running for some of the funds, though California’s project, which was recently partially funded by a $10 billion bond approved by the state’s voters, seems to be on the fast-track.
When the Department of Transportation delivers guidelines in March for how the high-speed rail funding should and can be spent, we’ll have a better idea of which projects will get money, though final decisions won’t be made until late May.