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December 1, 2008

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NEWS HEADLINES

Kerry-Specter Bill to Provide Up to $23 Billion for High-Speed Rail

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have introduced a new bill that would add more than $23 billion to the $1.5 billion earmarked for new high speed rail corridors in another recent bill.

The High Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 builds upon the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The latter authorizes $1.5 billion over a five-year period to finance construction and equipment for 11 high speed rail corridors in regions around the nation—including a proposed California corridor, approved by voters there in November. The Federal Railroad Administration has already designated new rail corridors that these bonds could help fund, connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago; the cities of the Northwest; the major cities within Texas and Florida; and cities up and down the East Coast. That bill, passed by the House in June and expected to pass the Senate, also reauthorizes Amtrak.

The High Speed Rail for America Act adds to the funding for these projects by providing a total of $23.4 billion—in part through the creation of several types of bonds. It would add $8 billion over 6 years via tax-exempt bonds for rail projects with speeds of at least 110 miles per hour. An additional $15.4 billion would be allocated through two types of newly created qualified rail bonds: $10 billion for super-high-speed intercity rail facility bonds and $5.4 billion for rail infrastructure bonds.

The legislation, if passed, would create new jobs while updating the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, according to supporters.

“This long-overdue national investment in high-speed rail would help to stimulate economic recovery while creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.  “Expanding our nation’s critical rail infrastructure will make our transportation network more efficient, reduce traffic pressure on our already busy interstate highways, and improve the environment.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and will likely be reintroduced when Congress begins its new session in January.

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