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US transport department kick starts high speed rail construction

US transportation secretary Ray LaHood has this week revealed that 54 high speed rail projects in 23 states will share $2.4bn (£1.5bn) to kick start construction of a nationwide network.

Big winners were California, Florida and Mid West states Iowa and Michigan.

California gets £560M to build high speed lines in the Central Valley on top of £1.4bn previously awarded to pave the way for high speed across the state through environmental studies, land acquisitions, grade separations, and station construction or improvements.

Florida gets £500M on top of £800M previously awarded for the Tampa to Orlando corridor.

Iowa and Michigan share £200M for lines from Chicago to Iowa City and Detroit.

President Obama unveiled his vision for a £324bn high speed rail fund in January along with £5.2bn for states across the US to start working up designs and begin small scale construction work. The cash announced by LaHood is intended to allow track construction to begin in earnest.

“Demand for high speed rail dollars is intense”

Ray LaHood

LaHood said competition for the cash was fierce. “Demand for high speed rail dollars is intense and it demonstrates just how important this historic initiative is,” he said.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration received 132 applications from 32 states totaling £5.5bn, three times the £1.5bn available.

Ahead of Obama’s January announcement, states submitted more than £34bn in proposals for the initial £5bn available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009.

More than 30 international rail manufacturers and suppliers have agreed to establish or expand their bases of operations in the US if they win work on high speed rail, a commitment demanded by the Obama administration to ensure new jobs are created in the US.

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