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White House pushes for rail projects

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- One of the centerpieces of U.S. President Barack Obama's transportation initiative is high-speed rail, officials said.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the White House is pushing for a bevy of rail projects, including a high-speed line between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn.

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Funding high-speed rail projects comes from $8 billion in economic stimulus money and $5 billion more over the next five years in the administration's proposed transportation budget, the newspaper reported.

The funding has spurred a stampede among states and advocacy groups looking to get in on the action.

"We're trying to get everything moving as fast as possible with the understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for funding," said Steve Raukar, a commissioner in St. Louis County, Minn., chairman of the Northern Lights Passenger Rail Alliance, which is spearheading the drive for the $500 million Minnesota project.

The Times said nearly half of the $48 billion in stimulus money for transportation projects will go toward rail, buses and other non-highway projects.

"It sounds like a lot of money to Americans, but it's really just a start," James RePass, president of the National Corridors Initiative, a non-profit rail advocacy group, was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "We're not going to wake up in a year and see a bullet train. But we are going to see much faster service for relatively little money."

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