No high-speed rail in State of the Union

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President Obama neglected to mention high-speed rail in his State of the Union address, four years after he used the occasion to call for a new nationwide network of fast trains.

Obama announced he was providing $8 billion from the 2009 economic stimulus package to states that were building high-speed railways in his 2010 State of the Union speech. The money was later rejected by Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

In his speech on Tuesday night, Obama called for Congress to approve new funding for highways and ports, but he made no mention of railways at all.

“Let’s work together to close [tax] loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home,” Obama said Tuesday. “We can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes — because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.”

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Obama was much more specific about his preference for investment in rail in his 2010 address.

“We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow,” the president said then. “From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.”

Transportation advocates said Obama proved his commitment to expanding public transit in other ways during Tuesday night’s State of the Union.

“Early in his speech he highlighted the graveyard shift worker who was commuting by bus,” American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President Michael Melaniphy said in a statement. “In fact, nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are taken for work commutes.  Millions of people depend on public transportation to go to work.  That’s why it is so important that we make sure that Americans have access to high quality public transportation systems.”

Melaniphy said he agreed with Obama that the U.S. economy was tied to infrastructure improvement.
 
“His comment that first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure is on the money,” Melaniphy said. “We know that if there is first-class public transportation in a community, economic development follows.  Public transportation is a proven catalyst for a community’s economic growth and opportunity.”