Obama, Biden unveil high-speed rail awards

Jan. 28, 2010 at 3:17 PM   |   Comments

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TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Florida Thursday to announce $8 billion in spending on a nationwide high-speed rail system.

"Through the recovery act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and waterways for the future," Obama said in a statement. "That investment is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there's no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America."

Biden said investing in high-speed rail, which will send trains zipping across the nation at speeds from 168 mph to 220 mph, will provide "so many good things for our country at the same time."

"We're creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term; we're spurring economic development in the future; we're making our communities more livable -- and we're doing it all while decreasing America's environmental impact and increasing America's ability to compete in the world," Biden said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called it "a game changer."

"It's not only going to create good jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base, it's also going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and help create livable communities," LaHood said. "I have no doubt that building the next generation of rail service in this country will help change our society for the better."

Of the $8 billion total, which the administration called a down payment toward construction of 13 potential rail corridors in 31 states, $1.25 billion will help build a Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line. The project is projected to create 23,000 construction jobs, energize business development an improved mobility by late 2014.

The award is half of the $2.6 billion Florida officials sought, the St. Petersburg Times reported. The White House said the state would get no more than half of its request immediately.

Obama and Biden also were in Florida for a town hall meeting at the University of Tampa.

Before the town hall, Obama and Biden toured a maintenance hangar and greeted crew members working on a KC-135 Stratotanker, which refuels other airborne planes.

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