High-Speed Rail and Transit Boosted by Economic Stimulus Act

February 18, 2009

High-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service will gain significant new funding under a measure of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which President Barack Obama signed on February 17. The act provides $8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration to provide capital assistance to such rail projects, placing priority on projects that support intercity high-speed rail service. The act also provides $1.3 billion to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak, with the majority of funds going toward the repair, rehabilitation, or upgrade of passenger rail assets or infrastructure, and for capital projects that expand passenger rail capacity.

Transit in general gains significantly under the economic stimulus act, which allocates $6.9 billion to the Federal Transit Administration for capital assistance grants. The act directs $100 million of those funds to help public transit agencies reduce their energy consumption and their greenhouse gas emissions, with priority given to those projects that save the most energy. An additional $750 million is provided by the act to support infrastructure investments in "fixed guideway" systems. A fixed guideway refers to any transit service that uses exclusive or controlled rights-of-way or rails, entirely or in part, running the gamut from heavy rail to high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Another $750 million is available for grants to "New Starts" and "Small Starts" projects, which include fixed guideway systems, system extensions, and bus corridor improvements. The act also provides $1.5 billion in supplemental discretionary grants for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure, which could include transit systems. See pages 226-229 and 237-247 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PDF 13.4 MB), as well as pages 80 and 82-83 of the accompanying joint explanatory statement of the conference committee (PDF 10.3 MB). Download Adobe Reader.