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State of the Union to be followed by high-speed rail announcement

By Anne E. Kornblut
President Obama will kick off his post-State of the Union tour with what aides describe as a major economic announcement -- $8 billion to begin building a high-speed rail infrastructure in multiple states.

The money is a "downpayment" on the rail system, officials said, and will go to local governments for distribution. A total of 13 major areas will benefit from the project, whose reach will be felt in 31 states, the administration said.

Obama will travel to Tampa for the announcement with Vice President Biden, a longtime railway advocate famous for riding Amtrak back and forth to Delaware when he was a senator. Yet the White House sees it as more than just a transportation project, billing it as an economic initiative that will produce thousands of jobs.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 27, 2010; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

High speed rail will be an easy target for terrorism.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 28, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Another waste of money. High speed rail works in small densely populated countries like Spain, France, South Korean, and Japan. The US is not constructed like those countries. I live in LA and the only places I would take a high speed rail would be SF or Vegas. But considering I could fly there for dirt cheap on Southwest, I wouldn't want to take a train anyway. If we build this system it will be another government mandate of wasted money year after year.

Posted by: louisp3 | January 28, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

High speed rail is fantastic, but everyone should be aware that $8 billion will not even cover the basic engineering for one state, much less 31 states. The preliminary cost for light rail in one metropolitan district, Denver, Colorado, was $5 billion. Read just about any edition of the Denver Post to confirm. That is ONE city area. The current estimated cost is now over $7.5 Billion and expected to increase. THAT IS FOR ONE, AND ONLY ONE metropolitan area.

Is this president absolutely crazy? or does he believe that we are stupid. High speed rail for any one state in the US will probably exceed $500 TRILLION. Is this president consciously trying to destroy the US of A????

Maybe we should partner with Al Quaeda or the Talliban. They might agree to just let us become Moslem, and keep our country intact.

Posted by: Incredulous52 | January 28, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I don't want America to look like Asia or Europe,
and I don't want to go another 8 billion dollars in debt.
I don't want to keep giving my money to Obama and the government for something that I'll probably never use, I want to keep my money so I can keep a roof over my families heads and food in their bellies.

My grandkids will be paying on the national debt, this crap and the upkeep on it their entire lives, and terrorists mouth's will br watering at the thought of blowing it to bits while it's full of innocent Americans.

This idea at this time, is beyond stupid.

Posted by: Thozmaniac | January 28, 2010 3:22 AM | Report abuse

Highways are the ultimate bottomless pit!

"Highways, are increasingly paid for by ”non-user” fees—including sales, income and property taxes—an analysis released today by Pew’s Subsidyscope project finds. The report shows that in recent years, these revenues are funding a greater share of highway construction and maintenance projects, with a corresponding decrease in the percentage of user contributions—including gas taxes, vehicle registrations and tolls.

“However, in recent years, user revenues are paying for a smaller share of the pie. That means the broader population is paying a bigger share.”

Highways are financed by federal, state and local funds. The Highway Trust Fund (HTF), the federal government’s primary means of financing highways, is primarily funded through gas tax receipts. As with user fees in general, the portion of costs covered by the HTF has declined over the last four decades."

Source: http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=56233

Posted by: Ocklawaha | January 27, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Yeah SOUTHWEST! I love it most when a single plane leaves from downtown, without a full body search, and makes stops in towns where I have relatives, places like Alexandria, Quantico, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Petersburg, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Selma, Raleigh, Cary, Fayetteville, Florence, Kingstree, Charleston, Yemassee, Southern Pines, Hamlet, Camden, Columbia, Denmark, Savannah, Jessup. The efficiency of that aircraft is amazing, working all day from DCA (Washington) on my way to JAX (Jacksonville), landing and taking off at all of these towns and cities. Landing in downtown Jacksonville, I can grab my bag as soon as I disembark. Did I mention the fuel saved when there are 400 of us on the plane? Yes I fly at the lofty altitude of 6 feet, never harassed, never rushed, the very definition of "travel." 1-800-USA-RAIL

Posted by: Ocklawaha | January 27, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

To all of you people obsessed with debt, this shows where it all came from:

http://www.lafn.org/gvdc/Natl_Debt_Chart.html

Posted by: Prosperity2008 | January 27, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

High-speed rail will be economically viable and will be no more of a "waste to the taxpayer" than our eternal subsidies or air travel and highways. It works every where else in the world, it will work in America, too.

Posted by: Dan78 | January 27, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Railroads happen to be one of the BIG interests of Warren Buffett in his portfolio, and this guy knows what he's doing!!

Posted by: Maerzie | January 27, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

1) Didn't they announce this, ohhh, 6 months ago?

2) Flying may be cheaper now, but oil cannot reasonably be expected to stay at $70/bbl for the foreseeable future. Southwest may be brilliant, but they cannot cause more oil to magically appear from the ground. It may be 10 or 15 years for a true oil-shock to hit us, but it will come.

3) That (#2) is why planning now for rail by 2015-2020-2025 is so important.

I just wish they were really rolling out something. The $8 Bn was in the Recovery act, unless I am missing something ant this is another $8 Mb, but I don't think so.

Posted by: RalfW | January 27, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

The only people AGAINST high speed rail are the ones who like to fly or who never leave the area they live in! It was an enormous mistake for the railroad tracks to be ripped out of most of the country! I thought so at the time, and I continue to think that way. Railroads are the most economical means of travel. Europe and other foreign countries have known this for years, as travel by rail never left their transportation. How foolish it is to drive down the highways and have to zig-zag around wasteful semis, carrying all the materials that would be cheaper at the checkout counters if it had gone by rail!!

Posted by: Maerzie | January 27, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

To all the republicans who are hyperventilating about deficits and spending and budgets and what not, what do you think the last 4 presidents did? Reagan was the biggest proponent of deficit spending. And suddenly you are concerned about deficits? Where were you last 8 years? And to think the election settled this! Why didnt the country just vote for McCain then??And in case you haven't noticed, tax cuts are a form of spending too!

Posted by: horace1 | January 27, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Florida is the most high-profile state where he is underwater in the polls as well as a state battered by the economic downturn and unemployment. It makes for a high-profile pivot to jobs and the economy after SOTU.

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | January 27, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I keep reading that road transport is subsidized... its not in fact quite the reverse.

The Government collects more taxes (e.g. on gas), fees and what not from vehicle owners than it spends on the roads.

Posted by: jackoByte | January 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

So...please ask him how he plans to fund this project!!! If it is more Government Debt...we don't want it!!!

What a fool. Get our house in order NOW!!!

Posted by: RobMc1 | January 27, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Turn up the presses.

Does this man understand that he is spending money that simply does not exist????

Posted by: RSweeney1 | January 27, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Wow - our rail system will be just like Europe's in another decade or two. Now, we're on the right track!

Posted by: sero1 | January 27, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

odorko where are u getting the $$$$$$$$ for this? have an idea: GET US OUT OF THIS BS WAR . bush was a fool why continue in his path?

Posted by: pofinpa | January 27, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

This is great, until you read that it will affect 31 states. Ugh. The only place that we know it would make sense is the Northeast corridor from DC to Boston. There are other candidates like LA to San Diego, but it makes zero sense to start with routes involving 31 states instead of starting on the DC to Boston line and learning from that experience whether it is feasible to install high-speed trains elsewhere.

Posted by: 1ofamillion | January 27, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing that it is 2009 and most US cities are still not connected via High speed train, whereas most European, Japanese, Chinese, etc. cities are and much more are being!

Just telling what lunatics Republicans have been whom never proposed this great investment in American cities & people.

U can read a gr8 related article here:
http://anoox.com/blog/Real_News.34356

Posted by: RealNews1 | January 27, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately they are basically looking to outsource this as well as the US unindustrialized over the past 20 years (thanks, MBA's and managers seeking lower costs and short term profits). Thus large systems that comprise high speed rail are going to be purchased from foreign sources, including the trains themselves.

High speed rail is a step forward but only if it contributes significantly to worker employment and for that we'll need to manufacture most of it here, something that may not be doable in the short term (5-10 years) because the US largely divested itself of large scale mechanical engineering expertise.

Posted by: kirtu | January 27, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

PeterPamZ, try again.

Even in the dark days of Reagan trying to eliminate Amtrak entirely, the annual appropriations were still around $500-700 million. Adjust for inflation. Factor in capital expenditures and payments to Railroad Retirement, and the Federal costs for Amtrak over the past 38.5 years easily exceeds $25 billion, and probably is closer to $30-40 billion. I don't happen to have a handy table showing the breakdown, and such statistics are notoriously susceptible to "smoke-and-mirrors" accounting (factoring in the annual appropriation but not factoring in one-time grants for capital costs, for example).

Airlines can add fees and taxes to their tickets to pay for airport costs. You pay for the highways with your gasoline taxes (and you're not paying enough in said taxes, no matter what you may think). Amtrak and other mass transit only have the farebox, and Amtrak took in $1.46 billion in revenue in 2005 (so says the Statistical Abstract of the US).

Search for yourself here: http://www.oig.dot.gov/search/apachesolr_search/Amtrak

Posted by: LNER4472 | January 27, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Finally, a beginning to high speed rail. Do not forget space for autos/trucks so we can drive once we get there.

Posted by: mascmen7 | January 27, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I frequently ride the high speed rail in Taiwan but not for commuting. After 3 years in service I don't think anyone truly 'commute' on HSR there. I ride it to avoid highway driving.

I was able to make it to a dentist appointment 200 miles away in less than 1.5 hours, door-to-door. That appointment would not have been available to me without HSR. It really forces you to change the way you look at time and distance, and to some degree, life.

An express train capable of running at up to 300 km/h (186 mph) travels from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City in about 90 minutes, compared to 4.5 hours for a train on the conventional rail. So, imagine this, board a train at Union Station, and in an hour's time, you're in NYC. Phillie is 45-min, tops; Balmore/BWI, 15-min; Richmond, 30-min (however Richmon wouldn't be a good candidate due to lack of a metro system).

FWIW

Posted by: deposetejada | January 27, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

When I was a child it was in the age of steam engines. Then there were passenger trains on every railroad line. Anyone could get on a train in any town in this country and get transportation to any other town or city in this country and many places in Canada and Mexico. Now in most small to midsized communities a person can't even get on a bus. The passenger trains are gone, almost all the railroad branch lines are gone, and almost all our small towns are gone. We call this progress but if it is progress it is downhill progress. Railroads have been subsidized from their beginnings by the government and still are. The government has allowed them to curtail services and merge into monopolies over the years at a great expense to the populous. Now that big business have ruined this contry their bedfellows in government are rewarding them and punishing the citizens of this country with higher taxes and runaway inflation. Did I mention when there were steam engines gold was $35 an oz, a 3 cent stamp would send a letter anywhere and the average wage was $1.00 an hr. What great progress we have made.

Posted by: OldCoot1 | January 27, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Oh no...another pork barrel waste of money. Get this SOB out of office.....please.

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | January 27, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

LNER4472, I have to dispute your numbers; Amtrak has gotten maybe 1 billion dollars during their entire existance but certainly Amtrak has NOT received 1 bil per year subsidy. Second, all other forms of mass transport (including highways and airlines) receive huge subsidies already, so what's wrong with taking some of those subsidies away from airlines and instead use those for rail, since once rail is established and passenger miles are reduced in the air (especially regional and commuter airlines) you will end up reducing the airlines subsidies, not to mention a lot less wear and tear on the highways.

Posted by: PeterPamZ | January 27, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps we can call it the "Obama Choo Choo"!

Posted by: wheeljc | January 27, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Sadly, even as a rail enthusiast I must agree fully with Mike85's comments. High-speed rail tends to work only in high-density corridors of 200-300 miles such as found in Europe and Japan. I will note that, by and large, such potential corridors in the United States are most heavily concentrated in "blue-state" regions of the West Coast and Northeast. Whether or not it's an appropriate expenditure of transportation dollars (see the Interstate Highway System), $8 billion is merely a down payment for a substantial long-term obligation in both construction costs and operating costs, and "flyover country" that will see little to no tangible benefit from such a program will likely revolt openly against such a massive financial pay-off to labor and "blue states" and an additional deficit-increasing program.

Posted by: LNER4472 | January 27, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

What we need is high-speed (though not bullet) trains that can also carry autos. I know it sounds stupid at first, but it really is the best of both worlds. Think about it: Americans love having (and usually need) their cars, but they also don't want to drive long distances like from DC to Florida, cross country, etc. Imagine a whole network of such trains, and you have an idea both red and blue America can get behind!

Posted by: adamsmorgan
________________________________________
adams, 2 trains you can research that's right up your alley so to speak... a few years ago my wife and I took the Auto-train from Florida to Washington DC, it was literally what you describe, load your car on the back of the train and ride in comfort up to DC, it was just as fast as driving there... and the food was a helluva lot better!
And the Eurostar that runs between Great Britain and France thru the chunnel also offers this service from Dover to Calais.
I am sooo excited about this initiative, we've needed high speed rail for quite some time; no, it's not practical for cross country distances, but for regional distances, high speed rail is much better than flying; faster when you take into account the trip from city center to the airport, airport security and be there hours before the flight, flight delays, getting from the airport to the city when you arrive.. as opposed to high speed rail where the stations are literally right in the heart of downtown.
And rail is a helluva lot safer that flying!

Posted by: PeterPamZ | January 27, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"Between 1971 and 2001, tax payers subsidized air and auto travel with 1.89 TRILLION dollars while, during the same period, AMTRAK received only 30 million."

Hfed, your Amtrak numbers are off by a factor of, 1,000. Amtrak has received an average of a billion dollars a year (adjusted for inflation) since its start-up.

Posted by: LNER4472 | January 27, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

High speed rail will be a huge waste of money in the US. With the exception of areas like the New York - DC corridor, the population is not dense enough for it to be successful. And in the areas where it could be successful, we already have adequate rail service.

High speed passenger - commuter rail works in Europe and Japan because most of the jobs are in the inner cities or centrally located around big cities. In most of the US, that is not the case. Additionally, on runs over 250 miles, the rail systems would be competing directly with the Airlines, which already have huge excess capacity and thousands of planes siting idle. And, the airlines can operate much more inexpensively than railroads. In states like California - Nevada, many airlines fly between San Francisco - Los Angles, - Los Vegas, and all stops in between. Most of these airlines have flights at least hourly, and you can book flights for as little as $59.

With a very few exceptions, the railroads will require huge annual subsidies, literally forever, to survive. This will be simply another unnecessary financial burden to the tax payers.

Posted by: mike85 | January 27, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

High speed rail will be a huge waste of money in the US, With the exception of areas like the New York - DC corridor, the population is not dense enough for it to be successful. And in the areas where it could be successful, we already have rail service.

High speed passenger - commuter rail works in Europe and Japan because most of the jobs are in the inner cities or centrally located around big cities. In most of the US, that is not the case. Additionally, on runs over 250 miles, the rail systems would be competing directly with the Airlines, which already have huge excess capacity and thousands of lanes siting in moth-balls. And, the airlines can operate much more inexpensively than railroads. In states like California - Nevada, many airlines fly between San Francisco - Los Angles, - Las Vegas, and all stops in between. Most of these airlines have flights at least hourly, and you can book flights for as little as $59.

With a very few exceptions, the railroads will require huge annual subsidies, literally forever, to survive. This will be simply another unnecessary financial burden to the tax payers.

Posted by: mike85 | January 27, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

The route goes from Orlando Airport to downtown Tampa, not into Orlando. Leave it to Republicans to come up with a scheme like that.

Posted by: scottilla | January 27, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Airplanes are cheaper because they're highly subsidized. Go for Obama on starting to bring the U.S.'s railroads into the 21st century with Japan, China, France, and Britain's.

Posted by: Dan78 | January 27, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

What we need is high-speed (though not bullet) trains that can also carry autos. I know it sounds stupid at first, but it really is the best of both worlds. Think about it: Americans love having (and usually need) their cars, but they also don't want to drive long distances like from DC to Florida, cross country, etc. Imagine a whole network of such trains, and you have an idea both red and blue America can get behind!

Posted by: adamsmorgan | January 27, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Between 1971 and 2001, tax payers subsidized air and auto travel with 1.89 TRILLION dollars while, during the same period, AMTRAK received only 30 million. Why would you expect AMTRAK to be cheaper and self-sufficient? Our airports are only affordable because of deep government subsidies. I'm glad to see money being spent wisely on high-speed rail.

Posted by: hfed | January 27, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

As energy sources dry up and gas prices increase, this country will need mass transit from coast to coast. But, it wouldn't be too bad if people had to stay home more either. They might get to know and like their families and neighbors.

Posted by: clairevb | January 27, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

How about building and boarding THE FREEDOM TRAIN?

** BULLETIN TO OBAMA: RESTORING RULE OF LAW MUST BE JOB #1 **

• A Job Without Justice Is Slavery by Another Name.

The pervasive surveillance, community watch vigilante terrorism, slander, financial sabotage -- and physical torture and impairment of THOUSANDS of unconstitutionally "targeted" Americans continues.

And the Obama administration now is fully aware -- and complicit in Bush-legacy programs of ideologically-driven personal destruction.

NOW IT'S OBAMA'S GESTAPO USA. WHEN WILL TEAM OBAMA ACT?

See: Poynter.org (Journalism Groups -- Reporting):

• "U.S. Silently Tortures Americans with Cell Tower Microwaves"
• "Gestapo USA: Fed-Funded Vigilante Network Terrorizes America"
• "U.S. Uses CBS News to Cover Up Microwave Cell Tower Torture?"

http://www.poynter.org/subject.asp?id=2 OR:
http://NowPublic.com/scrivener (see "stories" list)

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 27, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Has Obama ever heard about airplanes?

Flying SouthWest is cheaper, faster and the Boeing aircraft are American made.

I can see it now, low-cost, efficient, high-speed AMTRAK.

Posted by: bob59 | January 27, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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