You can find coverage of the most important elements of the new budget at major news sources. But I was interested to see that the executive summary of the budget spoon-fed me by double super-secret White House sources includes this:
Initiate a new federal commitment to high-speed rail, proposing a $1 billion a year high-speed rail state grant program, in addition to the $8 billion provided in the recovery plan.
That would be both a dramatic expansion of federal commitment to HSR and something of a drop in the bucket relative to what some of the worthwhile projects out there might cost. On the other hand, I think there’s a case to be made that it makes sense over the long haul for states to shoulder a healthy share of the HSR financial burden since the benefits of a specific project would largely be local.
But to make a short story long, the most important thing isn’t a particular year’s budget’s commitment to passenger rail. Rather, what’s really crucial are systematic biases in the ways federal transportation money is spent. It matters because those systematic biases wind up having a hefty influence on state and local policy as well. Representative Earl Blumenauer is doing an event tomorrow “to Call for Kick-Start of Transportation Finance Reform to Sustain America’s Infrastructure Future.” I don’t know exactly what he’s going to call for, but with him at the even will be Michael Replogle from the Environmental Defense Fund and Bill Millar from the American Public Transportation Association so there’s good reason to think these will be good ideas.