Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden announced the White House plan to invest $53 billion over the next six years into a high-speed passenger rail network, including $8 billion in the coming fiscal year. The proposed plan would be a step toward providing high-speed rail access to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years, a goal President Obama laid out in his State of the Union address last month. The funds—part of the president’s budget he will send to Congress next week—would develop new and improve existing rail corridors. “There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation—one of which is infrastructure,” Biden told a crowd at Philadelphia’s busy 30th Street train station, arguing the investment is part of winning the future. “If we sit back, a lot of other folks are going to eat our lunch,” he said. [Read Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Hays's Editorial: High Speed Rail is Key to Economic Development.]
The federal government has historically funded or subsidized infrastructure projects like highways and rail lines since they are public goods, used by many and aimed at contributing to the country’s overall economic growth.
But some members of Congress are already protesting, saying the government isn’t the best entity to pursue rail improvements. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, and that is exactly what Vice President Biden offered,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican and chair of the Transportation Committee’s railroads subcommittee. “Government won’t develop American high-speed rail. Private investment and a competitive market will.”
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