DOT official: Obama support of high-speed rail 'remains as strong as ever'

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Support for high-speed rail in Congress has ebbed to a definitive low since Republicans came to power in the House in 2010. Money from the 2009 economic stimulus package for railways that was offered by the Obama administration was rejected by three prominent Republican governors, and GOP members in the House moved successfully last year to eliminate future funding for high-speed rail.

Despite, Szabo said at the APTA conference Monday that "as we speak – 32 states are now moving ahead with 153 rail-development projects.

"This year alone, 44 projects in 16 states – representing close to $3 billion in federal funding – are underway or set to break ground," he said.
"And, other projects are already coming in on time and on budget."

Early in the first half of Obama's tenure in office, he called for a nationwide network of high-speed railways that he said would rival the reach of the interstate highway system. The Obama administration included $8 billion for construction in the 2009 economic stimulus, and prominently awarded the money to states the day after his 2010 State of the Union address.

Since then, a proposed high-speed railway in California that was awarded the most money by the Obama administration has come under fire for escalating costs, and opponents have argued that railways should only be built in the populous northeastern U.S.

But Szabo said Monday that citizens from other parts of the country also want to have access to high-speed railways.

"Two railroad tracks can carry as many people in an hour as sixteen lanes of highway," Szabo said.

"Americans want – and they deserve – more transportation choices," he added. "They’re tired of being stuck in traffic, delayed in airports, and facing pain at the pump."