Work on a high-speed rail network connecting U.S. cities is set to accelerate as President Barack Obama awards $8 billion in stimulus act high-speed rail funding to 31 states.
The president announced the long-delayed awards today in Tampa, Fla., where work is under way on a $1.25 billion high-speed passenger rail corridor between Tampa and Orlando.
Following up on his State of the Union pledge to create jobs, the president promised to "put people to work building high-speed rail lines." The $8 billion will serve as a "down-payment" on 13 high-speed passenger rail corridors, the White House said.
Some of those rail lines will run along rail freight corridors, and freight rail networks could receive a considerable injection of infrastructure funding from the awards.
The Federal Railroad Administration has said much of the funds will go into existing freight lanes to add regular Amtrak passenger trains or speed up existing ones.
Under FRA guidelines, states receiving high-speed passenger rail funding will be required to have written agreements with any "host" freight railroads, said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads.
"This ultimately will help ensure that higher speed rail does not compromise the vital present and future role of freight rail in America's economic recovery," he said.
The $8 billion was slated for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year. "Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created," Obama said.
One of the largest awards -- $2.25 billion -- goes to California to purchase right-of-way and construct track for a high-speed rail corridor. In the Midwest, $1.1 billion will be used to build a high-speed corridor linking Chicago and St. Louis, Mo.