The Senate passed its version of the economic stimulus package yesterday. Despite proposed amendments that called for either increasing or decreasing funding for transportation infrastructure projects, the approved figure didn't differ much from what originally was proposed: $8.4 billion for transit urban and rural formula programs, $2 billion for high-speed rail corridor investments, and $1.1 billion for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail grants. It also included $5.5 billion for a new intermodal discretionary program that can be used for highway, bridge, public transportation, passenger- and freight-rail, and port infrastructure projects.
In comparison, the House version of the stimulus bill includes $12 billion for transit and rail projects, and $300 million for high-speed and intercity passenger-rail projects.
House and Senate leaders are working to compromise on a bill by the end of the week — possibly even later today, some reports say. How will public transit fare? Will the final figure remain in the $12 billion range? Or will the cuts that are sure to come affect the transit stimulus funding? We'll soon find out... in the meantime, I'm interested in hearing any predictions.
$12b is below 2% of current stimulus package. For a country of size of USA, there should be an annual budget of around $50b for rail based transport industry. In contrast China plans to spend around $80b in 2009 alone on rail projects. See www.nytimes.com/.../23yuan.html
Let's not forget that China is a socialist nation. The state owns the railroads. In the U.S., the railroads are privately owned and operated and must raise their own capital. Perhaps the government will come to understand that transportation is a matric of various modes, each one doing something different and better than others. When that day comes, rail will get the kind of attention it deserves.
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