Ocasio-Cortez, Gillibrand and Moulton call for more high-speed rail funding in infrastructure package

Ocasio-Cortez, Gillibrand and Moulton call for more high-speed rail funding in infrastructure package
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Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-N.Y.) and Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Senate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget | House passes bill to streamline visa process for Afghans who helped US | Pentagon confirms 7 Colombians arrested in Haiti leader's killing had US training Business, labor groups teaming in high-speed rail push Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D-Mass.) on Wednesday called on Congress to increase funding for high-speed rail in the infrastructure package.

President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal invests $80 billion in rail projects, but industry experts say that money will mostly be spent on updating existing Amtrak lines rather than building new high-speed railways. Biden’s plan includes far more funding for roads, bridges and electric cars than public transit.  

“Rail is climate infrastructure,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a press conference Wednesday. “For every buck that we're going to put into a car and a bridge, we want to put a buck into a rail. We want equity. That's what we're here to demand.” 

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The lawmakers launched a high-speed rail coalition that includes the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. They say an electrically powered high-speed rail network would create millions of new jobs and drastically reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.  

While large sections of Europe and Asia are served by high-speed rail lines, the U.S. currently doesn’t deploy any trains considered “high speed.” 

“We're the strongest, greatest economy in the world when it comes to entrepreneurialism and when it comes to innovation, and we should never be ceding that leadership anywhere in the world," Gillibrand said at the press conference Wednesday.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week advanced a $547 billion transportation bill that dedicates $25 billion toward high-speed rail projects. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) has said she wants to bring the transportation bill to the House floor before July 4. 

Lawmakers, railroads and unions are mounting a last-minute push to allow private rail operators to access those funds. Passenger railroad Brightline wants government support for its high-speed railway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Private firms are also pitching high-speed rail projects in Texas and the Pacific Northwest. 

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Moulton is one of 23 lawmakers requesting funding for a $105 billion high-speed rail system stretching from New York City to Boston. Last month, he proposed a plan to spend $205 billion on a national high-speed rail system.

“The rest of the world is racing to build high-speed rail, because they know it is a smart investment,” Moulton said. “Building it in America will open opportunities for the rising generation to work in cities where jobs are growing and still get back for dinner in places they can afford to buy homes, all across the country.”

Biden has been negotiating with Senate Republicans on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would slash funding for green energy projects. It’s unclear whether the proposal would provide money for high-speed rail.