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Obama Administration to Start Discussion on High-Speed Train

April 13, 2009 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor

President Obama is expected to reveal a plan to bring high-speed rail to the U.S. this week, ABC News reports. The unveiling of the plan comes just after $8 billion was added to the economic stimulus package for high-speed train travel. It is the biggest commitment of its kind ever made by the federal government.

"I am always jealous about European trains," Obama said earlier this month while in Strasbourg, France. "And I said to myself, 'why can't we have high-speed rail?' And so, we're investing in that as well."

While European countries, as well as Japan, tough several high-speed or "bullet" trains, the closest the U.S. has to high-speed rail is Amtrak's ACELA Express that runs in the Northeast, primarily between Washington, D.C. and New York City.

The U.S. government says there are 10 other areas of the country where faster trains could compete with cars and planes, including routes from Chicago to St. Louis and Milwaukee; Miami to Orlando,; Eugene, OR, to Seattle; and Ft. Worth, TX to Little Rock, AR.

Amtrak hopes some of the stimulus money from the federal government can go toward improvements to the tracks it runs its trains on, most of which are owned by freight railroads.

"The track that's out there today ... for most of it we can't go over 79 miles per hour," Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman told ABC News.

The high-speed rail priorities laid out by the Obama administration this next week will guide states as they apply for the rail stimulus money. The Department of Transportation expects to start getting grant applications from states this summer.

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