LaHood: Still Our Goal To Connect 80 Percent of Americans to High Speed Rail by 2036

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Ray LaHood, speaking earlier this year (photo by thisisbossi via Flickr)

The U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, still wants to connect 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail by 2036.  That's the goal that President Barack Obama laid out in last year's state of the union.  But since then, the governors of Florida and Ohio followed Wisconsin's governor in halting their states' projects, and congress made no new allocations of high speed rail funds going forward.

The President made no reference to high speed rail in his 2012 State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Even so, LaHood told reporters after an appearance at the Transportation Research Board Wednesday: "High speed rail is a priority for President Obama and it’s a priority for the administration,  and we’re going to continue to make progress. We’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve allocated over $10 billion. That’s a pretty good leap in a three year period."

LaHood pointed out that the DOT had allocated nearly $1 billion to the Northeast corridor, "which is what members of Congress have been clamoring for." (That would refer to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica, who poo-pooed initial administration allocations for high speed rail that gave little to Amtrak's Northeast corridor.)

Asked if he still was working on connecting 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail in under a quarter century, he said, "that's our goal."

(LaHood also expressed doubt on the chances of a surface transportation bill passing congress this year -- article here. )

Here are his full remarks:

"We’ve made ten billion dollars worth of investments. We’re going to continue our efforts to implement high speed rail.

We’re going to continue our efforts with our partners.  We have great partners all over the country. W e have a great partner in Michigan in the governor.  e have a great partner in California in the governor we have great parters in the Midwest whether it be Michigan Illinois, Missouri.  We have great partners on the Northeast corridor.

If you look at the money we’ve invested over the last 18 months -- almost a billion dollars in Amtrak on the Northeast corridor  -- which is what members of Congress have been clamoring for.  We listened to them and we made those investments.

High speed rail is a priority for President Obama and it’s a priority for the administration,  and we’re going to continue to make progress. We’ve made a lot of progress.

Three years ago there was not one penny spent for high speed inter-city rail. We’ve allocated over 10 billion. That’s a pretty good leap in a three year period."

Does he still want to connect 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail by 2036?

"That's our goal."