Two things jumped out at me in this Wall Street Journal article about federal high speed rail funds. The first is about efforts by corporations to position themselves to benefit from HSR and other passenger rail projects:
Siemens USA, a subsidiary of Germany-based Siemens AG, has spent $76 million to expand a factory in Sacramento, Calif., where it builds rail cars. The company has already provided passenger vehicles for light-rail systems in San Diego, Denver and Salt Lake City, and it plans to hire more than 100 workers in the year or so ahead as it competes for stimulus-funded contracts.
I hadn't known of that Siemens plant, but it's definitely well-positioned to take on HSR work should the Authority choose to go with them to provide the rolling stock for the California system. That isn't stopping other companies, including the French and the French-Canadians, from showing interest:
The fastest trains currently running in the U.S. -- operated by Amtrak as the Acela service between Washington and Boston -- were built by the Canadian firm Bombardier Inc. and France-based Alstom SA. Both companies continue to be major players in the U.S. market.
Both will likely play some role in pursuing HSR contracts here in California. For its part, GE plans to stick to the "higher speed rail," projects aiming at speeds of 110 and 124 mph.
The other and more significant thing that stood out in the WSJ article were comments from FRA administrator Joseph Szabo about what would happen with the HSR grants:
As soon as this week, Joseph Szabo, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other senior White House officials will start deciding how to award the grants. A Transportation Department spokesman said the officials won't meet with any lobbyists or state transportation officials.
In an recent interview, Mr. Szabo indicated that clear winners will emerge from the process.
"We have to come away with very tangible success," Mr. Szabo said. "One of the worst things we can do is spread the money around so thin" that no major impact is seen."
There's really no other way to read this except that California HSR is going to get a significant chunk of change. All indications coming out of USDOT are that California is going to get money, and that our HSR project is seen as a signature project for this administration. Can't wait to see the final results of the DOT's process.