Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Passenger and freight rail win new funding in Obama's budget

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Tuesday said President Obama's $79 billion budget includes an additional $1 billion for higher speed passenger rail (HrSR) corridors as well as $4 billion for a National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund to issue grants and loans for projects, including freight rail, that provide "a significant economic benefit to the nation or a region."

These programs augment the customary multibillions budgeted for intercity, commuter/regional, metro, and light rail passenger systems and certain freight rail improvements.

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“President Obama’s budget builds on an historic first year for this Department of Transportation,” said Secretary LaHood (pictured at left). “In addition to making critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure, we jump-started high speed rail across America, launched a campaign against distracted driving and proposed landmark transit safety legislation. This budget reflects our priorities and values by continuing to invest in safety, livable communities, and an improved national transportation system.”

Secretary LaHood said the budget promotes safety in a number of areas, including $14 million for the FAA to hire 82 new safety and certification inspectors and safety technical specialists and $30 millionto add 260 positions to support the Obama Administration’s Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, "which the administration proposed to Congress last year to ensure a high and standard level of safety across all transit systems."

The additional $1 billion for passenger rail follows President Obama and Vice President Biden’s Jan, 28 announcement of $8 billion in Recovery Act funds for states across the country to develop America’sfirst nationwide program of higher speed intercity passenger rail service.

Secretary LaHood said the budget highlights "the importance of livable communities, and providing greater choices for transportation users through the integration of transportation, housing and commercial development decisions. This budget provides $527 million for livable communities by establishing an Office of Livable Communities, creating a program to improve local and state project planning and development capabilities, and funding programs that expand transit access for low-income persons.

A budget summary document is available at www.dot.gov.