by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
The $3.8 trillion budget unveiled this week by President Obama includes $47 billion for high-speed rail development, despite a Republican effort to defund the initiative this year.
The Republican-led House voted late last year to eliminate all funding for high-speed rail in the current fiscal year’s budget, but Obama’s plan calls for spending $2.7 billion in 2013 on rail and $47 billion over the next six years.
The White House reiterated Obama’s goal of providing high-speed rail access to 80 percent of the country by 2025.
The funding would “develop high-speed passenger rail corridors and improve intercity passenger rail service to significantly enhance the national rail network,” the White House said.
Last November, Republicans voted to eliminate about $8 billion that had been set to go to high-speed rail programs in fiscal year 2012.
Republicans hailed the vote at the time as the “end” of Obama’s rail plans.
“By zeroing out high-speed intercity passenger rail funding, we are being given the unique opportunity to refocus and reform the high-speed rail program on the rail lines that will produce the most benefit for the least amount of cost,” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said in a statement released by his office in November.
Shuster is chairman of House subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials and has opposed most of Obama’s push for a nationwide network of railways the president has said would eventually rival the interstate highway system.
Despite the GOP’s vote to eliminate rail spending for 2012, the Obama administration continued awarding grants to states that were interested in building railways using money that was rejected by states such as Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin that was authorized under the 2009 economic stimulus law.
The funding for the program, which included $8 billion for high-speed rail, was scheduled to run out in 2011, however.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) criticized Obama’s proposal as “more deficit spending,” but he did not mention the recommendation for rail spending in a statement released Monday by his office.
“The Obama administration today released its transportation budget which follows the same old pattern of spending more and getting less for hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” Mica said.
“The president needs to get behind the Republican transportation bill that accomplishes more with less through significant reforms including cutting in half the time it takes to complete major infrastructure projects,” he continued.