Congress Reaches $2.5 Billion Deal on HSR Funding
Just got to my laptop here in a very cold Denver, where I’ll be presenting on HSR to a meeting of the Public Interest Research Group. On the way in from the airport I read that Congress has reached a deal on HSR funding. They’ve found a middle ground – the House had voted $4 billion for HSR in fiscal year 2010, the Senate had voted only $1.2 billion, so they’ve agreed on $2.5 billion.
Obviously this is a letdown – there was a lot of activism to keep the $4 billion but once again, the US Senate’s desire to be penurious when it comes to economic recovery has won out. Over at the Transport Politic, Yonah sees the glass as half-full:
If this news is a let-down, it still is $2.4 billion more than has ever been obligated to fast train development in a congressional appropriations bill. It allows the DOT to fully fund very promising projects from Florida and California and still have billions left for other states with less intensive rail programs. It also implies that Congress will continue to fund high-speed rail at these levels, at least over the next few years.
And I don’t disagree with this point. Over the course of 10 years, assuming the HSR funds aren’t cut by a future Congress, that would generate $25 billion
annually for HSR. If California gets half of that sum, we might just have enough to get the SF-LA-Anaheim system built by 2020, especially if we can find the last $5 billion or so from local and private sources.
So this is a start, and better than nothing I suppose, but it shows how much further we still have left to go. HSR needs a more robust and stable funding source for a truly national high speed rail network to be built over the coming decade. The US Senate’s penchant for doing too little may have struck again here, and suggests to HSR activists that we need to redouble our efforts to show Senators that high speed rail is a sensible investment in jobs and in our nation’s future.