Today, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to create new jobs by updating the nation's crumbling infrastructure. The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 would transform America's outdated and underfunded passenger rail system into a world class system.
"We must continue to focus our energies on building and maintaining a strong national passenger rail system in order to ease congestion of air and highway corridors connecting high-growth markets, as well as to meet energy and environmental goals," said Sen. Specter. "The High-Speed Rail for America Act is an investment in our nation's infrastructure and has the potential to provide tremendous economic opportunities throughout Pennsylvania and the nation."
"At a time when our economy desperately needs a jumpstart, we need an effective national investment that puts Americans back to work," said Sen. Kerry. "A first-rate rail system would protect our environment, save families time and money, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again. The High-Speed Rail for America Act will help fix our crumbling infrastructure system, expand our economy, and match high-tech rail systems across the globe."
Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Joe Lieberman (I-CT.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), cosponsored the legislation.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell both voiced their support for the high-speed rail initiative.
"This long-overdue national investment in high-speed rail would help to stimulate economic recovery while creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced," said Gov. Rendell, one of the founding co-chairs of the Building America's Future coalition. "Expanding our nation's critical rail infrastructure will make our transportation network more efficient, reduce traffic pressure on our already busy interstate highways, and improve the environment."
"Creating a national high-speed rail network is an ambitious goal, but one that gets more urgent by the day," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Investing in modern infrastructure is vital to the nation's long-term economic and environmental health - and in the short-term, it would help put more Americans back to work. Many countries in Europe and Asia are investing in high-speed rail, and if our economy is going to remain competitive, we have to start catching up. Greater investment in our railways is a top goal of Building America's Future, the infrastructure coalition that Governors Rendell and Schwarzenegger and I created. I applaud the senators for tackling the issue head-on, and I strongly support their efforts to create the high-speed rail network our country needs."
The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 builds upon the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 which reauthorizes Amtrak and authorizes $1.5 billion over a five-year period to finance the construction and equipment for eleven high-speed rail corridors. It provides billions of dollars in both tax-exempt and tax credit bond and provides assistance for rail projects of various speeds. The bill creates the Office of High-Speed passenger rail to oversee the development of high-speed rail and provides a consistent source of funding.
Specifically, the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 provides $8 billion over a six-year period for tax-exempt bonds which finance high-speed rail projects which reach a speed of at least 110 miles per hour It creates a new category of tax-credit bonds - qualified rail bonds. There are two types of qualified rail bonds: super high-speed intercity rail facility bond and rail infrastructure bond. Super high-speed rail intercity facility bonds will encourage the development of true high-speed rail. The legislation provides $10 billion for these bonds over a ten-year period. This would help finance the California proposed corridor and make needed improvements to the Northeast corridor. The legislation provides $5.4 billion over a six-year period for rail infrastructure bonds. The Federal Rail Administration has already designated ten rail corridors that these bonds could help fund, including connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago, connecting the cities of the Northwest, connecting the major cities within Texas and Florida, and connecting all the cities up and down the East Coast.