U.S. to Begin Funding High-speed Rail Service in September

$9 billion allocated to bulding service

In a bid to rival the express trains of France, Japan, Spain and China, regions in the U.S. have been given guidelines on how to apply for $9 billion allocated to build a national network of high-speed rail corridors, the Department of Transportation said.

It said that the Federal Railroad Administration would award the first round of grants by mid-September under the new rail plan first revealed by President Barack Obama in April. "My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America," Obama said then, mentioning rapid train services in France, Spain, China and Japan. "We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come," Obama said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on June 18 that the commitment to revitalize the nation's rail lines by creating high-speed corridors and improving existing service between cities included an eight-billion-dollar grant program under Obama's massive economic stimulus plan. There is also a continuing one-billion-dollar annual investment proposed in the president's budget, he said.

"Rail travel will encourage economic growth and create new domestic manufacturing jobs, while reducing pressure on our highways and airways," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

Vice President Joseph Biden and LaHood heard from governors and state transportation chiefs at the White House two weeks ago about how they hoped to boost their economies with improved passenger rail service, officials said.

According to guidelines drawn up, rail proposals will be considered on the merits for their ability to make trips quicker and reduce congestion on highways and at airports and meet other environmental, energy and safety goals.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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