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Obama's $2.5 Billion High Speed Rail Spending for Election Week

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 03:52 PM

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Less than a week ahead of elections around the country, Congressmen are happily announcing money their states are getting for high speed rail. Official allocations will take place tomorrow.  California is getting nearly a billion dollars, Florida just over $800 million while several smaller projects in the Midwest for "higher speed" rail will also get funding, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Monday we reported on the money going to Florida and New England for intercity connections. Today local officials released more funding details for the Midwest and West Coast in what seems like a pre-election day affirmation of Presidential support for high-speed rail around the nation.

This week's $2.5 billion in grant announcements are not stimulus funds. They are the part of the FY2010 yearly allocations from the DOT and the Federal Railway Administration, (which has quite a handy website with plenty of charts, data, and interactive maps). The bulk of the allocations went to two of the largest states, California and Florida, receiving $900 and $800 million respectively.

The largest share of funding in the Midwest--$230 million-- goes to Iowa and Illinois for enhanced Amtrak service from Chicago to Iowa City. The Amtrak line from Chicago to Detroit received $150 million to increase its current speed to 110 mph--not quite the 220 mph that denotes most HSR, but certainly "higher speed" rail than the existing top speeds under 80 mph.

The Obama administration isn't funding every request though. They declined to give $8 million requested for a study and design of a potential Chicago-to-St. Louis bullet train.

In addition to this $2.5 billion for HSR this year,  there is still a largely unspent pot of $700+ billion in stimulus money dedicated to high speed rail. Of the $8 billion in stimulus money allocated for HSR,  just $871 million has been obligated.

Here's an updated list of all the projects receiving federal money, both stimulus funds as well as yearly allocations.

(Thanks to MidwestHSR for the tip on some of this.)

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