FRA Launches Notice of Funding Opportunities for the Federal-State Partnership for HSR Projects
The Federal Railroad Administration has published the FY22 notice of funding requirements for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program, a key funding opportunity that could finally make high-speed rail a reality for millions of Americans.
According to the notice, which initiates the application process for the FY22 funding cycle, the program “will support projects that improve safety, economic strength and global competitiveness, equity, climate and sustainability, and transformation.”
High-speed rail projects check every one of these boxes, making the growing number of electric bullet train projects across America highly competitive for funding from the $12 billion program. High-speed trains have cut oil demand and air pollution around the world by providing an electrified alternative to short-haul flights, single-occupancy vehicles, and highway and airport expansions.
The Biden Administration has identified high-speed rail projects as a key eligible use of these funds. In an August 2, 2021 fact sheet about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the White House mentioned that the law includes “$12 billion for partnership grants for intercity rail service, including high-speed rail.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told a House Appropriations subcommittee in May he plans to use funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to demonstrate high-speed rail in 2 or 3 geographies, pointing to the Federal-State Partnership Program as a likely source of funding for these projects.
“We deserve better passenger rail in this country,” Buttigieg said on October 19. “But for the long run we also do need to be preparing and investing in high-speed, because that's the standard that most people in developed countries are getting used to. It makes no sense to me why Americans should settle for a standard of speed and convenience on the rails that's inferior to what a citizen could expect if they live in Germany, or Japan, or Italy, or even Turkey, or Morocco. We should have the best in America when it comes to any form of infrastructure."
America has become a global laggard when it comes to high-speed rail. In 26 nations across the world, high-speed trains collectively carry billions of passengers every year. China has built 25,000 miles of high-speed rail since the mid-2000s and is on track to grow its network to 43,000 miles by 2035.
High-speed rail is a necessity because America’s polluting, fly-and-drive status quo is reaching its breaking point. Our highways are full and building more of them will not fix the problem of ever-increasing congestion. Transportation planners have known for decades that widening and building new highways reliably draws ever more cars onto the road, creating a vicious cycle of aimless road building that fails to alleviate congestion or address the climate emergency.
The aviation system, too, is hitting the limits to growth. Since communities understandably resist the expansion or siting of major airports in their neighborhoods, the U.S. hasn’t built a major new airport in 27 years. As travel demand increases, airports are running out of space to accommodate the growing air traffic.
Electric bullet trains attack the root cause of the congestion crisis by significantly expanding the transportation system’s total carrying capacity. While there are 5 seats in the average car and 125 seats in the average plane, there are 900 seats in a standard high-speed train.
“Americans have had it with inefficient, delayed, and congested transportation systems,” said Andy Kunz, President of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. “This program presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to finally bring high-speed rail to the American people.”
Once high-speed rail is available, decades of experience from across the world shows that millions of inter-city travelers will opt for high-speed trains instead of flying and driving, reducing the strain on our whole transportation system and slashing carbon emissions and air pollution across the transportation sector.
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