The stimulus bill provides serious money for high-speed rail
There are those who have expressed dismay at reports the high-speed rail provision of the stimulus bill was destined to build supertrains to carry gamblers back and forth between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Thankfully, they were woefully misinformed. Matt Yglesias cleared things up when he uncovered a legal analysis of the actual language from the bill:
The Stimulus Plan includes two provisions modeled after the [High Speed Rail] Act that finance high-speed rail development. First, the Stimulus Plan provides a $2 billion grant for high-speed rail projects that will remain available until September 30, 2011. The grant will be distributed among applicant states, interstate compacts, public agencies having responsibility for providing high-speed rail service and Amtrak for capital projects associated with inter-city passenger rail services reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 miles per hour. The Secretary of Transportation will have discretion to award grants based on an extensive set of criteria, including the legal, financial and technical capacity of the applicant to carry out the project; compatibility with relevant national plans; and anticipated economic, environmental and transportation effects.
Sorry, Vegas. No earmark for you. Looks like Reid’s statement that a Los Angeles-Vegas route "could get a big chunk of the money" was more wishful thinking than act of Congress. This statement is no doubt causing further heartburn in Sen. Reid’s office now that it’s been embraced by the right as a supposed example of the pork that lards the stimulus package. In fact, according to the Sierra Club, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood has set up a new entity called TIGER (an acronym that just oozes efficiency, no?) to prioritize stimulus projects based on merit, rather than whim. Really.
Yglesias also uncovered this fantastic map of officially designated HSR rail corridors, some of which would presumably get first dibs on the money. Note the absence of a little green line between L.A. and Vegas:
So now we rail lovers can rejoice unencumbered by doubt and confident in our knowledge that the President really is a SUPERTRAIN fan.