LaHood labels past week 'pretty big' for high-speed rail

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Republicans in the House have spent most of the past weeks bashing Amtrak, and they have promised to keep railing against the company as the elections near. 

But LaHood said Friday that the Obama administration's investment in the the future "Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor" would lead to the company being able to run trains south of Washington up to 110 miles per hour.

"The growing number of passengers choosing rail to travel between Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Washington, DC, indicate another thriving corridor in the making," he wrote. "And we're supporting their choice to ride rail with investments that will make passenger rail service on the Charlotte-Richmond-Washington line even more competitive."

LaHood added that investments in the railways in North Carolina and Virginia would also benefit Amtrak passengers traveling from New York to Florida and freight railways in the area. 

LaHood also touted a recent DOT approval of the construction plan for a controversial proposed high-speed railway in California. 

"This week also marked a key development for California High Speed Rail as the [Federal Railroad Administration] signed a record of decision clearing the final technical hurdle for construction on the 65-mile Merced-Fresno segment," he said. "The California High Speed Rail Authority expects to break ground on this historic project in early 2013." 

LaHood said President Obama would soon announce plans to streamline environmental reviews for the California railway, which has received more money from the administration than any other rail project. California has been given more than $3 billion to build its railway, including funds that were rejected by Republican governors in other states. 

LaHood said the progress in the Southeast and California proved the Obama railway initiative had gotten back on track since those rejections. 

"From coast to coast, DOT is working hard to improve travel times and service for rail passengers, but we're creating something even more important: good jobs and an America built to last," he wrote.