Obama Proposes More HSR Spending
Last week President Barack Obama proposed his 2014 budget. The proposal includes several contentious measures related to Social Security and overall federal spending, which have gotten the most attention so far. But it also includes billions in high speed rail funding:
The administration’s budget also demonstrates that the president has not abandoned his high-speed rail ambitions. The budget proposes $40 billion for passenger rail programs over five years, aimed at making rail more widely accessible and convenient. It’s essentially his outline for a passenger rail (PRIIA) reauthorization. He even stuck to his goal of providing 80 percent of Americans with rail access, though years of funding setbacks have tempered his ambitions some — he now pledges that 80 percent of the population will have “convenient access to a passenger rail system, featuring high-speed service” — not that they’ll all have high-speed rail service.
Even if the full $40 billion isn’t for high speed rail, it’s likely that California’s high speed rail project would get a bunch of that money, more than enough to build the Initial Operating Segment to Los Angeles.
The only thing standing between this budget request and reality is the House of Representatives, still controlled by anti-rail zealots. They’ll be in power until at least 2015, maybe even until 2017. Either way, at least half of President Obama’s time in office will have been spent with Republicans in control of the House and blocking further movement on federal high speed rail funding. It could be close to a lost decade, a reminder of the colossal failure of Democrats to hold power in 2010.
Still, even if (OK, when) Republicans shoot down this sensible rail funding proposal, it’s a good sign that high speed rail funding is becoming a staple of Democratic transportation policy. Democrats will retake the House someday soon, and will likely hold the White House for a while longer (especially if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016). When they do, proposals like this will serve as the basis for budgets that will actually become law.