U.S. lawmakers to vote on $10 billion for high-speed-rail grants

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. House of Representatives panel plans to vote next week on legislation that includes $10 billion in government assistance for high-speed-rail corridors.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure proposal also includes $10 billion to enhance mobility for low-income Americans, including establishing new transit routes and funding for a fare-free service. The money is expected to be included in a $3.5 trillion government spending bill.

The transit funds would also go to boost transit frequency and improvement projects. During Senate negotiations over a separate $1 trillion infrastructure measure, $10 billion transit funding was cut.

The bill includes $6 billion to advance local surface transportation projects, $4 billion to reduce surface transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and $1 billion on low-emission aviation technologies like sustainable aviation fuels.

Last month, California said it plans to compete for billions in funding for rail projects.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in rail. We see somewhere between $20-30 billion in funding we can compete in to get funds for the California high-speed rail project, and that’s what we intend to do,” said Melissa Figueroa, a spokeswoman for the state’s high speed rail authority.

In June, President Joe Biden’s administration restored a $929 million grant for California’s high-speed rail program. Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump in 2019 pulled funding for the project, which has been hobbled by extensive delays and rising costs, calling it a “disaster.”

Biden, a Democrat, strongly supports high-speed rail and has vowed to ensure the United States “has the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world.”

California bills its system as the first high-speed rail project in the country, and aims to complete it in the 2030s. The cost was estimated at $80 billion in 2020 but could ultimately be as high as $99.8 billion.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sonya Hepinstall)

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