Senate Strips High-Speed Rail Funding

The Senate’s transportation budget proposal is still under wraps, but we’re getting some clues about what’s in it.

The president's "vision" for high-speed rail is getting cloudy. Image: ##http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/04/16/a-vision-for-high-speed-rail/##White House##

This morning, a subcommittee marked up the transportation and HUD appropriations bill, and the full committee will consider it tomorrow afternoon. Only after that will the draft bill be released.

During this morning’s subcommittee markup, though, a few senators divulged a few key points. For example, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said he was ” discouraged by the elimination of high-speed rail grants” in the budget. “It’s a casualty of the cuts mandated in the debt-limit deal,” he said.

Despite his strong push last winter for high-speed rail service that would reach 80 percent of the U.S. population in 25 years, President Obama has been willing to sacrifice high-speed rail funding in tense budget fights with Republicans. The Senate seems to be following suit.

However, funding for Amtrak is untouched in the Senate budget bill, foreshadowing a pitched battle once the Senate and House have to reconcile their two budget bills. The House made devastating cuts to Amtrak in its version.

And Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) emphasized that TIGER grants are “an important part of the transportation equation” and indicated that they were still in the bill. Through other channels, we hear that TIGER is being funded at $550 million, which is slightly higher than the $527 million allocation it has now. The House 2012 budget proposal would have eliminated the program completely.

Smart Growth America sounded the alarm yesterday that the Partnership for Sustainable Communities (a collaboration among USDOT, EPA and HUD) could be on the ropes. From what we hear, there is some money for HUD grants for livable and sustainable communities.

Amendments can be offered at tomorrow’s full committee markup, so anything can change.

Jeff Davis of Transportation Weekly reports that the Senate bill maintains current funding levels for highways and transit ($41.1 billion and $8.3 billion, respectively). It also has an extra $1.5 billion in emergency relief highway funding, which is “exempt from the $55.25 billion ceiling given to the THUD bill and subject instead to a separate annual emergency ceiling under the Budget Control Act,” the deal that ended the standoff over the debt ceiling.

  • Mark Walker

    Without either aviation or high speed rail, it seems inevitable that the U.S. will become a far more fragmented nation than it is now.

  • Martin Engel

    Mark Walker, physical transit is gradually being supplanted by digital transit.  We are fragmented ideologically,socially, racially, politically, sexually and economically already. “One Nation” remains pretty much a popular, political myth. 

    Aviation and high-speed rail are high-end transit modalities; that is, they cost the most per ‘passenger-mile’ of any transit mode. If HSR is ever developed, it will contribute to, not mitigate, our fragmented nation.  

  • Anonymous

    In 30 years from now, when the price of oil will be way much higher than it is now, citizens of the United States will be see their standards of living continue to decline because of these myopic policies. 

    Having to pay for gas is a form of taxation.  If I have x amount of discretionary income and .30(x) is the price I’ll have to pay to get to work, then, how is that in anyway an optimal public policy.  People need options.  The road is not king. 

    What I don’t get is why the f— don’t the HSR people have better lobbyists?  Can’t they pay off the right people and get their policies implemented? 

    Why can’t ThyssenKrupp or Bombardier simply make some nice campaign contributions to the right congress people and make this happen, like in practically every other industry?  

    And these rural red states in particular, where everything is further spaced out, will especially be feeling it. 

    SMH 

  • lyqwyd

    @Martin Engel, please provide evidence to support your claim that HSR has the highest cost per passenger mile.

  • Rddea633

    Because of politics (which no one can spend, eat, or put in the bank) – we are once again held hostage to moronic policies which limit the development of America.  We are a third world when it comes to manufacturing as it is, and I see nothing getting better as long as we are being held hostage by the Tea Party secessionists!

  • The Truth

    Engle is one of the main NIMBYS against HSR in Califorina.

  • justin

    did you email Sen. Feinstein yet (who’s on the appropriations committe-let alone the transportation subcommittee). http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

  • ..

    The proposed draft of the HSR is not constitutional.  The route was not supposed to come through our valley farms, dairies and residences.  HSR has not been forthcoming with the people it affects.

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