Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

What just happened with high-speed rail?

Darnell Chadwick Grisby, Deputy Policy Director

Darnell Chadwick Grisby, Deputy Policy Director

High-speed rail has long been an Obama Administration signature initiative—his Interstate Highway, his Transcontinental Railroad. High-speed rail was meant to be a program that would both transform America, and leave his imprint.

So, today, we wake up to learn that in the budget compromise between the Administration and the Republicans, high-speed rail got zeroed out.

Though the program still has $2 billion in funds from the stimulus, many wonder if the FY 2011 cuts point to a more constrained vision for high-speed rail. People wonder if it puts the Administration’s negotiating position for the next budget in peril, and if it sends a bad signal to the private sector. Private sector investors often seek consistent public funding before providing private capital.

High-speed rail still captures the public’s imagination and still has majority support according to recent polls. Twenty-four states applied for the money Florida returned, so the demand is clearly there. High-speed rail should be a priority, because high-speed rail is smart politics and good public policy. Allowing a handful of vocal opponents to dictate the nation’s transportation agenda is not good for any of us.