» First phase of applications for Track 2 line planning and construction attracts major bid demands from California, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia.
Update (13 October): State of Indiana has applied for $2.8 billion in funds on behalf of the Midwest Regional Rail Intiative for a 110 mph line connecting Chicago and Cleveland.
Update (6 October): Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph Szabo released the following news earlier today:
“We have received numerous applications from states and groups of states for the development of high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs for grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These include 45 applications from 24 states totaling approximately $50 billion to advance high-speed rail corridor programs. We also received 214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects.”
All awards, according to the statement, will be announced this winter (for the $8 billion). This means that the states applying for the second round of high-speed rail (applications due in Spring 2010) will have to rely on Congress authorizing more money for the program…
Update: New York has submitted a proposal for $7.9 billion (inflation-adjusted) in investments in its Empire Corridor, making it the biggest project on the list yet announced. Pennsylvania has added its own proposal for $3.1 billion in funds.
More than forty states submitted $100 billion in proposals for stimulus funding of high-speed rail projects in July. Those applications were preliminary, but they followed with more serious applications at the end of August for the Federal Railroad Administration’s first, third, and fourth tracks of rail financing, which include small project construction and corridor planning. Last week, a number of states completed their final application for the FRA’s second track, which is designed for corridor-level construction on a much larger scale. These projects, unlike those submitted for consideration in August, do not have to be shovel-ready. The FRA will determine which states receive financing in the beginning of next year.
Though the list I’ve compiled below is not necessarily complete, it provides a basic overview of the states that have announced their applications thus far. Project costs total $18 $30 $50 billion — far higher than the $8 billion thus far committed to high-speed projects in the United States, and coming in addition to the almost $7 billion for which states applied in August. Clearly, there is far more demand than supply for these funds.
|Applicants for High-Speed Rail Corridor Projects|
|California||$4.5 b||220 mph service preparations for San Francisco-San Jose; Merced-Fresno; Fresno-Bakersfield; Los Angeles-Anaheim (source)|
|Florida||$2.6 b||Tampa-Orlando HSR; Passenger rail between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach (for the first time since 1968) (source)|
|Georgia||$472 m||Atlanta to Macon, full capital costs (source)|
|Illinois||$550 m||Line from Chicago to St. Louis (source)|
|Indiana||$2.8 b||Line from Chicago to Cleveland, via Indiana (source)|
|Kansas||$10 m||Upgrades to the Newton-Kansas/Oklahoma state line (source)|
|Michigan||$830 m||Upgrades to 110 mph of Detroit-Chicago service (source)|
||$7.9 b||Albany-Rochester-Niagara Falls upgrades to 90-110 mph service (source)|
||$3.9 b||Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond upgrades to 90-110 mph service (source)|
|Ohio||$564 m||3C Line connecting Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland (source)|
||$2 b||Tulsa-Oklahoma City-Texas State Line (source)|
|Pennsylvania||$3.1 b||Harrisburg-Philadelphia speed up; Lackawanna Cutoff; Pittsburgh Maglev (source)|
|Virginia||$1.75 b||Washington-Richmond-Petersburg, reducing DC-Richmond trip times to 90 minutes (source)|
|Washington||$850 m||Portland-Seattle-International Border (source)|
|Wisconsin||$652 m||Milwaukee-Madison (source)|
The state that submitted the second biggest proposal, California, has a major rail program underway, and there’s a lot to be said for why it should receive the lion’s share of federal funds. It is the only state whose taxpayers have made a serious commitment of their own to fund their rail program.
But North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia have also submitted multi-billion dollar bids for money, arguing that their corridors deserve federal help. It remains to be seen how Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will decide to spend the cash, but it would be inappropriate for federal funding to ignore local efforts. But would it make sense for Oklahoma and California both to receive $2 billion, when the latter had already agreed to spend $10 billion of its own money, while the former has done nothing of the sort?
In a September meeting in Georgia, Mr. LaHood was asked whether that state would receive federal dollars for high-speed rail. He responded: “It’ll come to Atlanta if Georgia gets its act together… There has to be a commitment by state government that transit is important.” This kind of rhetoric is helpful, because it provides a clue for how the U.S. government will determine funding.
The Department of Transportation has yet to establish how it will measure the efficacy of various proposed rail projects. The government will release a draft national rail plan later this month, a document which should provide some clues about Washington’s goals for intercity rail. Initial plans suggested that the government would release funding for Phase I corridors (those submitted in August) in late September, but there has been no news on that front. It would be appropriate, after all, if the government provided funding after describing its goals for the rail program.
There is also the question about how much of the $8 billion the federal government will distribute for each of the funding tracks; some states are planning to wait for round two of applications, which will be due in Spring 2010. For instance, Minnesota is planning to apply for $200 million in track 2 funds for the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, Northstar, and the Northern Lights Express — but only next year. New Hampshire has temporarily delayed action on a planned line between Nashua and Concord, with the expectation that it will be able to demand funds later. How much will the DOT have already committed by then? Will there be any money left?
Of course, Congress has a role to play here as well. If the $8 billion included for high-speed rail in the stimulus was a good start, it clearly isn’t enough to rework the American rail system, which is hardly the paragon of quality service. President Obama requested $1 billion in additional annual appropriations for rail for the next five years, but that isn’t enough to meet the demand; the House has suggested a $4 billion grant for this year alone, but the Senate has yet to sign on. James Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has proposed a $50 billion allocation to rail over the next five years, but his efforts to see a new transportation bill passed have been delayed repeatedly by disagreements in the Congress about how to find money.
Nonetheless, the deluge of applications from states suggest that congresspeople increasingly have strong constituent desires for increasing the pot of federal rail allocations. Whether Congress will follow through on that incipient desire, however, is another matter.