The Obama administration plans to spend $53 billion on developing and improving high speed rail over the next six years, Vice President Joe Biden announced Tuesday. The president's 2012 budget, which will be released next week, seeks $8 billion for this plan. In his State of the Union address, Obama announced a plan to provide 80 percent of Americans access to high speed rail in the next 25 years.
"There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation–one of which is infrastructure," said Biden in a statement. "As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion, and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced."
Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the spending announcement at a Philadelphia's 30th street train station. LaHood called the investment one that "keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century. It's an investment in tomorrow that will create manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs today."
Obama's plan focuses on investing in express rail systems which travel at speeds 250 miles per hour or higher as well as regional and national high speed rail trains. But the plan faces challenges in Congress, especially from House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica of Florida, who has pushed for transportation spending in the Northeast. "Rather than focusing on the Northeast corridor, the most congested corridor in the nation and the only corridor owned by the federal government, the administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects," said Mica in a statement.
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Corrected on 2/8/2011: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect headline.