Senate Passes Spending Bill: Includes $2.5 Billion for High-Speed Rail

On Sunday the Senate voted 57 to 32 to approve the omnibus spending bill, which included $2.5 billion for high-speed rail. The spending bill, which already passed the House, will go next to the President's desk for signature.

While the bill's $2.5 billion is less than the $4 billion for high-speed rail approved by the House in an earlier version of the spending bill this year, it exceeds the President's request for high-speed rail in his draft budget ($5 billion over 5 years). With this appropriation Congress has indicated their strong support for the nation's high-speed rail program.

The bill also included a small ray of hope for the Northeast Corridor, which has been excluded from applying for significant grants in the FRA's high-speed rail program because it lacks an up-to-date corridor-wide Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The spending bill includes $50 million for planning grants to states (with an 80/20 federal-state split). That $50 million is being eyed by states in the Northeast to fund their work on the Programmatic EIS in cooperation with the FRA and Amtrak in order to hasten the corridor's eligibility for funding in the FRA's High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program.