Reporting from Washington — President Obama will announce today $8 billion in grants to high-speed rail, an investment that will give a special boost to projects in California, Illinois and Florida as part of a plan to create the nation's first nationwide program of intercity passenger rail service.
In all, rail projects in 31 states will get money through the Recovery Act stimulus plan, passed by Congress last year to create jobs, transform travel and spur economic recovery. On a joint trip to Florida today, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will announce the grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation that the president highlighted in last night's State of the Union Address.
"Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the interstate highway system was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and waterways for the future," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "That investment is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there's no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America."
The grants will go toward developing 13 new, large-scale high speed rail corridors, according to the administration. Officials say the investment will create well-paying jobs in track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, in addition to maintenance and operations. More than 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers have agreed to establish or expand their operations in the U.S. if they are hired as part of the investment.
California is slated to get as much as $2.25 billion for its planned project to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco with trains as fast as 220 mph.
Florida will receive up to $1.25 billion to develop a new high-speed rail corridor between Tampa and Orlando, featuring trains as fast as 168 mph.
Routes connecting to Chicago also stand to land significant money. Corridors connecting the city with St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., Madison and Milwaukee, Wisc.; and Detroit are targeted for improvement;