High-speed rail to get $336 million more from feds

With the latest installment, California and several Midwestern states are getting at total of $782 million to purchase locomotives and rail cars. Some of that comes from funding other states rejected.

The Siemens Velaro high-speed train set, one of the fastest series-produced trains in the world, has a regular speed of 350 kilometers per hour (about 217 mph). Siemens

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Wednesday announced his office is dispersing an additional $336.2 million in funds toward the massive U.S. high-speed rail public works project underway.

This time, the money is going for the trains themselves.

Including this latest release, $782 million has been dispersed for purchasing 33 locomotives and 120 bi-level train cars for California, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington.

The federal government has now allocated a total of $10.1 billion, set aside via the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, for the introduction of high-speed rail as well as updates and extensions for urban and commuter rail systems throughout the U.S.

To ensure that the money stays in the U.S. and directly produces jobs, LaHood has made contracts open to foreign as well as domestic companies, but only on the condition that they employ U.S. workers and locate or expand their manufacture facilities within the U.S. to carry out the contracts, according to the Department of Transportation.

The massive public works project has been met with enthusiasm from the majority of U.S. states, happy to get federal funding that could have an immediate impact on jobs during a very dismal economic downturn. More than 39 states and the District of Columbia have submitted requests for funding for various legs of the high-speed railway.

Not everyone, however, has been onboard with the plan and it's played out in a comic bit of good old-fashioned political showmanship

The governors from Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio each stated in letters to LaHood that they felt so strongly against the proposed high-speed rail plan , they would refuse the money offered to their states: $2 billion, $810 million, and $400 million, respectively. Given the monetary amounts in question, the poor economy, and the fact that states typically compete for federal funding, not reject it, their responses were unusual even for political football. The governors from New York and Illinois immediately picked up on that, and each wrote letters to LaHood stating they'd be happy to take their shares, and any money from any other states who chose to refuse it. Another 22 states followed with similar requests for the unused funding.

In April 2011, a total of $145 million from the pools of money intended for Ohio and Wisconsin was granted to Washington, with $70 million specifically for trains. Then in May, LaHood dispensed the $2 billion originally intended for Florida's rail project to projects within 15 other states and the District of Columbia, including the $336.2 million dispersed Wednesday for new locomotives and rail cars.

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About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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