Vice President Joe Biden announced today a six year plan that will provide $53 billion to get the US high speed rail network on its feet. The plan is the first step to meeting President Barack Obama’s goal — which he stated in his State of the Union address last month — of building a high speed rail network that at least 80% of Americans will have access to by 2036. Over the next fiscal year alone, $8 billion will be spent getting our current rail system up to speed, installing a limited amount of dedicated electrified high speed track and figuring out which corridors without rail service should get it first.

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As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” said Vice President Biden. “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced.” The announcement was made at 30th Street Station in Pennsylvania, one of the stops on the only US high speed rail to date — the Acela Express from Washington DC to Boston.

In the next year the first $8 billion investment will help lay the “Core Express” lines which will be the backbone of the nation’s high speed rail network. It will get existing regional lines running at increased speeds — 90-125 miles per hour — to get our existing rail network working more efficiently and it will identify “emerging” rail lines that should be strengthened and built to give new communities access to the rail network. With rail service in the US at an all time high last year this is the perfect time to build, with many communities open to being connected to the network. The government will get those communities involved over the next year to identify where the high speed network should be built. Over the five years following the remaining $45 billion will be used to construct the network and then parts of the fund will be set aside to assure that it is well maintained.

In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood who was on hand with the Vice President at the announcement. “This historic investment in America’s high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century. It’s an investment in tomorrow that will create manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs today.” This initial six year plan is meant to show local communities that the federal government is interested in helping them build this infrastructure. The initial investment will create tens of thousands of construction, manufacturing, and rail operation jobs for Americans and get local communities on the road to a high class, high speed transportation network.

+ Read the announcement in detail here