Obama Doubles Down on High-Speed Rail

Undaunted by Republican opposition, public setbacks, and budgetary constraints, President Obama plans to forge ahead with his ambitious plan to develop high-speed rail systems across the U.S.

Speaking before a congressional committee this week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reiterated the administration's intention to continue to invest in "its signature transportation project," reports Ashley Halsey III. “We’re not giving up on high-speed rail,” testified LaHood. “The president will include funding in his budget. I think we’ll get there with public money, but in the absence of that we’ll get there with private money.”

Surprisingly, says Halsey, "LaHood’s testimony was welcomed by a majority of members who attended the House Transportation Committee hearing, including a number of Republicans who have expressed varying degrees of skepticism about high-speed rail in the past."

Thus far, "[m]ore than 150 proposals related to the creation of a high-speed rail system have been funded," notes Halsey, "most of them to link major population areas on the two coasts and in the Midwest." However, some in congress believe the administration needs to speed up the pace of work. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) "suggested launching a pilot program to garner public support."

“I’m not convinced that we know how to do it because we haven’t done it,” Norton said. “There will be huge criticism of the administration for having nothing to show for its efforts in five years.”

Full Story: Obama pushes ahead with high-speed rail plan

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Irvin Dawid's picture
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HSR critic, Congressman McCarthy, testimony recorded

Ashley Halsey III quoted one important critic who testified.

“Maybe it’s time to cut our losses and pay down our debt,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy told the committee. “I have real doubts about the viability and the cost. Just because we’ve [already] invested money doesn’t mean we have to invest more.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the third-highest-ranking Republican in Congress, represents the lower portion of the Central Valley, where construction will begin next year (though that will be north of his district).

The LA Times recorded his testimony in the PolitiCal blog with accompanying video published also on Dec. 06, "GOP leader suggests pulling the plug on California's high-speed rail">GOP leader suggests pulling the plug on California's high-speed rail".

“Look, I know Hollywood happens to be in California, but this is not a Kevin Costner movie,” he said. “If we built it, I don’t know if they will come”, McCarthy testified.

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