This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
I’m excited to see Washington State receive $590 million in high-speed rail grants. It’s pretty remarkable that our state, with just 2% of the nation’s population, managed to snag 7% of the $8 billion in federal dollars.
As much as I adore Sen. Patty Murray, I’m not sure we can give her office the lion’s share of the credit here. To my knowledge, this didn’t go through the typical appropriations process where Sen. Murray has disproportionate clout. Rather, this is the result of 20 years of work by the states of Oregon and Washington to seriously invest in rail when not many other states were doing so.
In addition to shaving several minutes off the Seattle-Portland trip, we’ll also get a couple of new round-trips per day, and some significant work towards systems which will allow our Talgo trains to hit their maximum speed of 125mph.
This is, also, the perfect use of stimulus money, IMO. You have a long-term plan (pdf) for infrastructure investment that might have been cut because of state budget issues, so the feds come in and play the counter-cyclical role of keeping the project and the jobs afloat until the economy recovers.
Finally, one of the criticisms of the $8 billion fund was that it wasn’t enough to do a national network, and so you had a choice of either putting all the money on one “showpiece” project, or doleing it out piecemeal and maybe not seeing any HSR actually get built. Overall, I thought the DOT did a really good job of balancing those two goals. California and Florida, with projects in the advanced planning stages, got over half the money, and the rest was largely doled out to a few projects in substantial amounts that it could actually make a difference.