After almost a year of anticipation throughout the United States, the recipients of the discretionary high-speed rail stimulus grants have finally been announced, to time with President Obama’s State of the Union address. California has been especially excited by the opportunity to obtain much-needed federal money to add to the portfolio of funds that will be used to build California’s high-speed rail project. California was in fact so eager that the State applied for $4.7 billion (PDF), over half of the nation’s total allocation. We were actually awarded $2.344 billion, or about half of the amounted requested in the application. Of that, most ($2.25 billion) is set aside for high-speed rail, with a small remainder ($94 million) for other conventional rail improvements. It is indeed a respectable sum of money — intended to give a tangible boost to California’s startup corridor, which could become the test case for American high-speed rail, while still distributing enough money to other major corridors, so as to maintain widespread political support for this nascent national effort.
Numerous other areas around the country also received grants, including: $1.25 billion for Florida’s Tampa-Orlando corridor, $1.2 billion of HSR/Amtrak funding for the Northeast (of which the high-speed grant was just $485 million), $1.1 billion for Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City, $823 million for Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities, $620 million for Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond-Washington, $598 million for the Pacific Northwest, $400 million for Ohio, $244 million for Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac, $17 million for Iowa, and $4 million for Texas. The list quite rightly hones in on the known priority corridors: Florida, but also the Midwest routes that are planned to feed into Chicago, which were awarded a total sum just shy of California’s (albeit distributed for use by several states).
California’s piece of the stimulus pie, meanwhile, includes the $2.25 billion to be used to complete various projects along four high-speed segments (San Francisco-San Jose, Merced-Fresno, Fresno-Bakersfield, and Los Angeles-Anaheim), including environmental review, engineering, stations, track, signaling, and right-of-way acquisition. California also received $94 million to be used for the Capitol Corridor ($23 million to increase capacity at San Jose Diridon and construct a universal crossover between Davis and Sacramento), Pacific Surfliner ($51 million of improvements toward 110 mph service), and $20 million for other corridors. That funding was awarded to both the High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrans, and it does not appear that more specific project-level (or even corridor-level) allocations were announced by the federal government for the bulk of the funds. Of particular interest is the fate of the $400 million request put in for the Transbay Transit Center’s train box, whose funding was controversially put into jeopardy by the Authority’s resurrection of the once-rejected Beale Street Alternative. Although the released materials were silent as to that question, the Examiner looked into the issue and determined that $400 million has indeed been reserved for Transbay, in spite of the Beale Street discussion.
In mid-2009, the Bay Area’s heavy-hitters on transportation put together their heads to produce the Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy. The result of that effort was a recommended list of projects, of varying levels of utility, that would begin the process of preparing the Transbay-Diridon corridor for its impending transformation by high-speed rail. So it’s reasonable to expect that funding priorities at least in the Bay Area will draw on that list. Also, this is not strictly speaking HSR stimulus news, but it is certainly relevant: the expected $171 million TIFIA loan, which has been included in Transbay’s funding portfolio, was finalized.
Map courtesy of the White House.