Biden Announces $53 Billion Rail-Funding Plan
By JARED A. FAVOLE And JOSH MITCHELL
WASHINGTON - Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion plan Tuesday to upgrade and build intercity passenger-rail networks.
Mr. Biden, along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, announced the plan at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. The six-year program is designed to give 80% of Americans access to passenger-rail service within 25 years—a goal President Barack Obama set in his State of the Union Address—and to create jobs.
"In a global economy, we can't forget that infrastructure is also the veins and the arteries of commerce," Mr. Biden said. He frequently travels between his home state of Delaware and Washington on Amtrak trains.
The administration has already devoted $10.5 billion to passenger-rail programs, with the bulk of the funds going toward California and Florida high-speed rail projects that are currently in the planning stage.
Under the new plan, the administration would provide $8 billion for passenger-rail projects in this year's budget, set to be released next week.
The plan faces hurdles, including how future funding will be paid for and whether it can gain enough support in Congress. Republicans have criticized rail projects as wasteful spending and have called for canceling rail construction as part of a broader plan to reduce the deficit.
Rep. John L. Mica (R., Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Railroads Subcommittee, criticized the rail plan.
"Government won't develop American high-speed rail. Private investment and a competitive market will," Mr. Shuster said in a statement. Mr. Mica said the administration should focus its efforts on the Northeast Corridor, the most congested area for railway travel, rather than on other "marginal projects."
New Republican governors of Ohio and Wisconsin recently returned federal funds for rail projects because of cost concerns. Florida's new Republican governor has said he is reviewing whether plans for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando are viable.
The White House has argued that, as the economy slowly recovers, it is too early to press the brakes on all spending. "We all agree we need to cut spending to get the deficit under control," Mr. Biden said. However, he added, "When it comes to jobs, there are three key places where we cannot compromise. We cannot compromise on education, innovation or infrastructure."
Biden Announces $53 Billion Rail-Funding Plan - WSJ.com