The Obama Administration is proposing an additional $6 billion for passenger trains immediately as part of a larger jobs-creating initiative that looks to build on recent economic growth through investment in America’s infrastructure. The 2012 rail money will be broken down into two pots, with $4 billion going to network development and $2 billion going towards system preservation.
The budget provides $2.7 billion in 2013 and $47 billion over six years to develop high speed passenger rail corridors and improve intercity passenger rail service to significantly enhance the national rail network. The proposal includes merging Amtrak’s stand-alone subsidies into the high speed rail program as part of a larger, competitive System Preservation initiative.
This being an election year, with a Republican-controlled House, the budget is little more of a guide to what to expect from a new pro-rail Congress and a second term for President Obama, if he wins in November.
In the current budgetary and political climate, the future of high speed rail service is quite uncertain. In California, it seems to become more uncertain each month. Aside from the attacks on federal funding for such projects, there is a great deal of backpedaling on the part of California Gov. Jerry Brown.
In late 2011, the Brown administration unveiled a revised "business plan" for building the north-south bullet train system to answer the embryonic project's many critics, according to The Fresno Bee.
The paper reported that the project would be slowed down and stretched out timewise with a new and supposedly more realistic cost structure, officials declared. It would be, California High Speed Rail Authority chairman Tom Umberg said at the unveiling, "a new time, a new day and a new beginning." But the revised cost, about $100 billion or three times the original estimate, shocked many and raised questions about whether the state, which had only $9.95 billion in bond funds available, could raise the remainder from the federal government and private (or foreign government) investors.
The CHSRA's own "peer review" committee issued a scathing analysis, saying that to begin construction without firm financing would be very risky, and the state auditor's office echoed those sentiments.
Statewide polling indicated that Californians had turned against the project, and legislators whose votes were needed to appropriate construction balked, according to the paper.
Brown vigorously defended the project, and replaced Umberg with his own chairman, long-time adviser Dan Richard, who had helped rewrite the business plan.
Having seized personal control of the high-risk project, Brown now owns it -- and is ordering up another revision to make it more financially and politically palatable, according to the Bee. He dropped hints about that in January, saying, "It's not going to be $100 billion. That's way off," and adding, "I'm trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment. We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees -- that will be a source of funding going forward for the high-speed rail."
In short, high speed rail may be expedited in an effort to beat cost increases, or it may not happen for many more years to come. No one is taking bets on construction starting any time soon.
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/01/31/2704713/brown-scales-back-high-speed...