High Speed Rail Grant Wins Praise from Minnesota Delegation

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Washington DC- The Obama Administration’s decision to move ahead with a high-speed rail line that will eventually connect the Twin Cities to Chicago is drawing praise from Minnesota’s congressional delegation.

Today, White House officials are announcing plans to spend $8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on high-speed rail projects across the nation.  Included in the announcement is $810 million to begin work on the Milwaukee and Madison phase of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Corridor.   A grant of $600,000 will go toward the Madison to the Twin Cities portion of the line to assist with planning.

Congressman Jim Oberstar, who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been a strong advocate of high-speed rail for years.  In 1991 he included the first funding for the Midwest High Speed Rail Corridor in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.

“This is a historic opportunity to create jobs and offer people an environmentally friendly and competitive transportation alternative,” said Oberstar.  “Congestion on our nation’s highways and at our airports is growing faster than we can keep up with; it is imperative that we create new modes of transportation, in addition to investing in our existing infrastructure.”

In 2007 traffic congestion cost Minnesota’s economy $1.2 billion, nationally the cost was $87 billion.  Cars were stalled in traffic for a total of 4.2 billion hours, wasting 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline.

“The right mix of transportation options includes a high-speed rail connection linking the Twin Cities to Chicago,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “With this initial investment, we will not only create jobs but we will also move one step closer to the 21st Century transportation network that our 21st Century economy demands.”

“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in support of high-speed rail,” said Senator Al Franken. “Improving our transportation infrastructure offers one of the greatest returns on investment possible for Minnesota. Let’s get to work on planning so we can break ground as quickly as possible and put people to work in a time when we badly need jobs.”

“These federal funds are a welcome down payment on making high-speed rail between Minneapolis and Chicago a reality,” said Congressman Ellison.  “This means more jobs and more business for Minnesota.”

“Connecting St. Paul’s Union Depot to downtown Chicago with high-speed rail is a smart investment that will create Minnesota jobs in the near term and boost our economy for generations to come,” said Congresswoman Betty McCollum.  “After years of planning and discussion, I commend the Obama Administration for being a partner with us to begin implementing this vision for our transportation future.  It is now time for the state to step up to the plate.”

“I have always advocated for a data driven process to determine the route for high-speed rail that’s in Minnesota’s long term best interests,” said Congressman Tim Walz, vice chair of the House Transportation Committees Subcommittee on Pipelines, Railroads and Hazardous Materials.  “This funding will be used to study possible routes that Minnesota outlined in its recent Statewide Rail Plan – including the River Route and the Rochester Route and put Minnesota in the running for future rail construction funding that will create jobs across our state.”

In addition to the high-speed rail funding included in the ARRA, an additional $2.5 billion was appropriated for fiscal year 2010, bringing the current investment to $10.5 billion.  For the long term Oberstar has included a $50 billion authorization for high-speed rail projects in the six-year Surface Transportation Authorization Act which is currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives.

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