U.S. gov't awards $2.4 billion for high-speed rail

A total of $2.4 billion will go to 23 states as part of federal public works project to build high-speed city-to-city passenger service across the U.S.

Candace Lombardi
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.
Candace Lombardi
3 min read
Shown is a map of high-speed railroads currently under construction in the U.S., as well as corridors under development, and proposed lines under study. Federal Railroad Administration

The U.S. government awarded $2.4 billion in funding last week to 54 railroad projects across 23 states in the U.S.

This latest round of funding is in addition to the $8 billion that was awarded in January as part of the comprehensive public works project to construct the "first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service."

The funds are going toward new railroad lines and stations, as well as efforts to update and refurbish existing ones to coalesce with the high-speed plan announced in January as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In this round of funding, Florida received $800 million to build a high-speed railroad connecting Tampa and Orlando with train speeds reaching up to 168 mph at some points along the route, making the trip under an hour compared with 90 minutes by car. The state's ultimate plan is to extend the line from Orland down to Miami, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Iowa received $230 million to hook into a new intercity passenger service that would connect Iowa City to Chicago and points in between.

California, known for its heavy traffic congestion, received $901 million, of which $715 million will be spent on a new high-speed railroad across its Central Valley. The state's ultimate goal is to have a high-speed passenger service reaching speeds of 220 mph at some points between San Francisco and Los Angeles that would run 2 hours 40 minutes compared with 6 hours by car, according to FRA statistics.

Michigan received $161 million to build a high-speed railroad from Detroit to Chicago.

Projects that received money in the January round of funding included those in North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

In addition to the tracks being laid, funds have also been allocated to study the feasibility of building high-speed railroads between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Kansas City and Oklahoma City, and Atlanta and Charlotte, to name a few.

Both U.S. and foreign companies have been eligible to apply for the high-speed railroad funds, but to qualify will have to "establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are hired to build America's next generation high-speed rail lines."

Jobs expected to grow out of the vast initiative include those in railroad planning, engineering, manufacturing, track-laying, maintenance, and operations.

The U.S. has come late to the game of high-speed rail. The FRA's promise of trains that "will reach speeds of" 168 mph or 220 mph at certain points during a single train ride seems timid compared to the high-speed trains with continuous running speeds of 200 mph outside the U.S.

Japan and Europe have long been using high-speed railroads to move their people and have achieved much faster speeds. In 2003 Japan's Maglev train did 361 mph, though it's up for debate if it qualifies as the world's fastest train since its electromagnetic technology allows it to hover without actually touching its rails. In 2007, the French-made V150 ran 357 mph and also claimed title to the fastest train in the world.

Private industry has also been turning to railroads in recent years with IBM and Siemens each developing technology that's going to be applied to high-speed railroads under development in China.