Congress is moving full steam ahead on HSR funding:
Yesterday, the House approved a $123.1 billion transportation and housing bill for fiscal-year 2010.
The measure would provide $4 billion for high-speed rail (HSR), $3 billion more than the Obama Administration had sought in the next fiscal year for HSR and intercity passenger rail. The bill also would appropriate $1.5 billion for Amtrak — in line with the national intercity passenger railroad’s current funding and the Administration’s request — and $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
The Senate has yet to begin addressing its version of the spending bill. The House and Senate eventually will have to reconcile any differences between their bills before a measure is presented to President Obama.
Not all of that $4 billion goes straight to HSR projects, as Reuters points out:
The spending bill passed by the House actually sets out $4 billion for high-speed rail, but Democratic officials expect to transfer half of that total to a national infrastructure bank that would give grants and make loans for large-scale transportation projects, another Obama priority.
All of this is a good start, but the big question - how to pay for a long-term project to build out a national high speed rail system - remains up in the air. Republicans are adamantly opposed to any new tax, and the Obama Administration is not exactly in a mood to go around raising lots of taxes (the health care tax increases will be a big enough battle).