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Feds award $8.2 billion to advance high speed and intracity train lines

The Biden administration has awarded $8.2 billion to major train projects across the country that it said would help advance the nation’s first high-speed national network and a series of intracity routes.

“The bottom line is that, under President Biden, we’re delivering world class passenger rail service that Americans ought to be able to expect,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Thursday on a conference call.

Biden is set to travel to Las Vegas Friday afternoon to tout the $8.2 billion, which includes $3 billion for the privately operated Brightline West line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the California High Speed Rail project, which includes the San Joaquin River Viaduct pictured here, is facing the kinds of challenges that “come with being the very first at anything.”

California High Speed Rail Authority

The federal investment includes smaller grants for 69 projects across 44 states that are still “in the planning stages but represent compelling visions for the future,” Buttigieg said. “We’re creating a pipeline for promising intercity rail projects to get ready for future investments.”

The Brightline West grant and a $3.1 billion grant for the struggling California High Speed Rail project’s initial Central Valley line was announced Wednesday.

To advance other high-speed proposals, the feds awarded $500,000 for development of an Amtrak-led high-speed train in Texas, another $500,000 planning grant for a separate Texas high-speed proposal sponsored by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and $500,000 for bullet service between Oregon, Washington and British Columbia Washington dubbed the Cascadia.

Buttigieg said the qualifying projects “had to go through an extraordinary level of scrutiny” to make the cut.

Acknowledging the delays and cost overruns that have plagued the California project, which has seen the price tag climb for the full Los Angeles to San Francisco route climb to $128 billion, Buttigieg said “They are facing a lot of the challenges that come with being the very first at anything.”

The California grant will be used to fund the initial Central Valley segment, which is estimated to cost $33 billion, and will still require another roughly $6.8 billion to be completed.

 ”We’re confident the dollars will go to good use,” Buttigieg said. The administration will also closely track Brightline West’s “aggressive timeline,” which aims to open in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. “For all of these projects, we would not be funding them if we did not believe they can deliver,” he said.

A passenger train between Raleigh, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia, won $1.1 billion to help connect the southern states to the East Coast. Virginia won $729 million to support a $2.6 billion project to build rail capacity along 12 miles of the rail corridor from Washington, D.C. to Richmond, including a new span over the Potomac River.

Amtrak will receive $94 million in a pair of grants to support a renovation of Chicago’s Union Station as part of the Chicago Hub Improvement Program, a series of projects to improve rail service in Chicago and throughout the Midwest corridor. Amtrak, the Chicago Department of Transportation and Cook County will provide a 20% local match.

The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act features $66 billion for rail projects, which the administration says is the largest train investment since the creation of Amtrak. The grants this week total $8.2 billion from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program and $34.5 million through the smaller Corridor Identification and Development program to “guide passenger rail development.” The announcement follows the $16.4 billion investment in the Northeast Corridor rail system announced in November.

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