Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood singled out California and Florida as leading candidates to secure federal funding for high-speed passenger-rail service.
"California and Florida are way ahead of the curve," Mr. LaHood said Friday at a breakfast gathering in Washington. He stressed that no final decisions have been made....
Mr. LaHood said "no one corridor is going to get all of this money" and that the DOT is "looking to create opportunities in every corridor that wants to make progress." Mr. LaHood has been meeting with many state and local officials to hear their arguments for securing passenger rail funding, including a meeting on Thursday with San Francisco mayor and California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom....
California is "way, way, way ahead," he said. As for the Midwest, where many officials are hoping to place Chicago at the center of a high-speed rail network stretching to St. Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Detroit, Mr. LaHood said, "They're not in that position yet."
That's certainly more welcome news than I was expecting. I'm sure that the Midwest states, which are extremely important politically to President Obama, will have something to say about this - but even if they are able to wrangle more money out of the USDOT process, it's not going to be a whole lot of money. LaHood is clearly signaling that California is positioned well to get a big chunk of that federal HSR money.
LaHood's statement comes on the heels of yesterday's CHSRA board meeting, which approved a list of "shovel-ready projects" to submit for the federal HSR stimulus:
California high-speed train officials Thursday approved a list of shovel-ready construction projects likely to qualify for $8 billion in federal stimulus funding for high-speed trains....
The project elements selected by the Board on Thursday are spread throughout California's planned 800-mile system. They include:
1. The entire Los Angeles-to-Anaheim and San Francisco-to-San Jose corridors, where the Authority is expected to have completed the project level environmental document, and qualified and selected design build teams to begin construction of the sections by the 2012 deadline.
2. Identification, selection and negotiation of right-of-way acquisition in the Merced- to-Bakersfield section, including the system’s planned maintenance facility.
Authority staff also will work before the deadline to identify other “shovel ready” projects outside the three corridors identified above that advance the Authority’s high-speed rail plan and that meet the federal criteria, according to CHSRA Executive Director Mehdi Morshed.
Unfortunately it's not clear what the specific projects will be - the CHSRA press office didn't have that information. So to all you who think I never criticize the CHSRA, here you go - they really need to get that list of proposed projects out to the public. That will help make the project tangible and show exactly what the stimulus money can bring. It can help rally the public to support HSR and those specific projects.
Still, in the overall picture this is a welcome development and a sign that the federal government is quite serious about giving the California HSR project a major financial boost.