February 26, 2009 in Nation/World

Transportation: High-speed trains, rural air service

Associated Press
 

Available details of President Barack Obama’s proposed government spending for the 2010 budget year that begins on Oct. 1. A more extensive budget outline is expected in April. In most cases, the figures are for discretionary spending and do not include mandatory entitlement programs like Social Security. The percentage change is based on what Obama wants to spend next year compared with what he anticipates the government will spend in 2009 once Congress completes appropriations for this year.

Agency: Transportation

2010 proposal: $72.5 billion

Change from 2009 estimate: 2.8 percent increase

Highlights: Obama’s transportation budget would make a $5 billion installment payment on his campaign promise to build a national network of high-speed passenger trains.

But it sidesteps how to shore up the essentially insolvent highway construction program.

The federal Highway Trust Fund depends in part on gas tax revenue, which is declining. Last fall, Congress transferred $8 billion to the trust fund from the Treasury to make up for a shortfall between money promised to states for highway and bridge projects and money available in the fund. Obama said he wants to work with Congress to find a solution, but his budget outline provided no specifics.

The high-speed rail money would be spread out over five years. That’s on top of the $8 billion for high-speed trains in the recently enacted economic stimulus bill.

In Europe and Japan, some trains travel over 180 miles per hour. The only similar train in the United States is Amtrak’s Acela, which travels 150 miles per hour in some places between Washington and Boston.

Former President George Bush wasn’t a proponent of high-speed rail and proposed eliminating funding for Amtrak.

Also in Obama’s transportation proposal:

• $800 million for the Federal Aviation Administration’s program modernize the nation’s air traffic control system. That’s up from about $660 million, but on course for what FAA was expected to spend.

• A $55 million increase in subsidies for commercial air service to rural communities — up about 50 percent over the 2009 budget year that ends Sept. 30. Bush tried to cut the program by more than half.

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