Congressional Conference Report Secures $1 Billion Annually for HSR

Obama plan for annual high-speed rail funding approved by House and Senate Democratic conferees

I’ve just read through the conference report of the U.S. FY 2010 Budget Resolution, which outlines spending in fiscal year 2010, and serves as the agreement between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The report includes the $1 billion for high-speed rail that President Obama asked to be included in the budget, in addition to the $8 billion already included for fast rail service in the stimulus bill. The report also sided with the House’s larger $481 billion in transportation outlays to be spent over the next five years, versus the $477 billion that had been proposed by the Senate. This report, though not yet voted on by Congress – a necessary action – will almost definitely be approved and passed into law after being signed by the President because of large Democratic majorities in both houses.

In other words, good news from Congress: support for transportation remains strong, important considering that the transportation reauthorization bill, good for six years, will be put under consideration over the next few months. While the bill’s tepid support for rail improvements (we need a lot more than $1 billion a year for true high-speed rail) isn’t the greatest news, at least Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), who forced $10 billion out of the bill, didn’t decide to sacrifice Mr. Obama’s proposals for transportation programs in the process.

There wasn’t much to expect out of the budget, though, and this report doesn’t surprise. What’s exciting is SAFETEA-LU‘s replacement.

9 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Adam

    Are there any proposals for the next reauthorization bill that represent a good goal for the level of funding for transit? In other words, is there a proposal out there that gives a number that we should be lobbying for?

  • jackson

    these proposals are absolutely ludicrous. We have the technology to build much faster, way more efficient high speed trains using 21st century technology that would require no subsidy.
    check this: fastransitinc.com
    Instead, we get a tiny dribble of 1 billion a year, not enough to build a single line, using antiquated technology which will not fundamentally shift people’s traveling habits.

    And that 1 billion is going to go nowhere once all this printed money comes into circulation, inflating the costs of the construction and operation of rail.

  • Adam

    If we have the technology and it requires no subsidy why hasn’t the private market built it? Maybe because it actually requires public investment to have a well functioning high speed passenger rail network just like in every other industrialized country that has built one?

  • JP Perry

    Where does the remaining $480B go?

  • JP Perry –
    Something on the order of this:
    $5 billion – HSR
    $10 billion – Amtrak
    $85 billion – transit
    $350 billion – highways
    $30 billion – other stuff

    But the important point is that these numbers have not yet been worked out yet. The budget resolution is a very vague outline of how funding should be spent – the reauthorization of the transportation bill (this summer) is where the action on spending will go.

  • When you write “true high speed rail”, a better expression is “Express high speed rail”.

    That allows you to express what you mean with precision, with lapsing into the backstabbing between one mode and another that plagues public transport advocacy in the United States after over half a century of extreme under-funding.

  • MadPark

    Wouldn’t it be nice, even just for this budget cycle, to have those billions reversed: US$350B for non automobile transport support, and “only” US$85B for highways? Why, we could seed a couple of trust funds, one for urban transport and one for inter-city rail, plus buy a thousand new cars for Amtrak, plus support countless urban areas in getting their 50-years-late transit modernization programs underway. Just in this one budget cycle we could do all that, had we the political will and the leadership in the White House and the Congress.

  • JP Perry

    Wow. $350B for highways. What a misallocation of funding! What is the reasoning for spending so much more on roads than rail?

  • Woody

    JP —
    It’s not reasoning to spend $350 billion on highways and so little on rail. It is business as usual.

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