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State agencies to “aggressively pursue” $8 billion in high speed rail investments

Pittsburgh, meet Philadelphia. Philadelphia, meet Reading. A rail system high-speed rail system could connect Philadelphia to Pittsburgh through Harrisburg and a second system could link Philadelphia to Reading if state agencies win funding being set aside by President Obama from the economic stimulus package for high speed rail corridors. State officials have been practically giddy […]

picture-3Pittsburgh, meet Philadelphia. Philadelphia, meet Reading.
A rail system high-speed rail system could connect Philadelphia to Pittsburgh through Harrisburg and a second system could link Philadelphia to Reading if state agencies win funding being set aside by President Obama from the economic stimulus package for high speed rail corridors.
State officials have been practically giddy about the administration’s proposal to invest $8 billion in high-speed rail corridors, including ones in Pennsylvania.
“What was so gratifying today was to have President Obama offer a forward-looking vision for high speed rail that will provide mobility options for the nation and contribute to a much needed strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Pennsylvania transportation secretary Allen Biehler said in a press release issued by the Governor’s office.
Officials say that the state’s Keystone Corridor—between Harrisburg and Philadelphia—and an oft proposed link between Philadelphia and Reading, are two projects that could qualify for funding. Biehler told KYW Newsradio that PennDOT will also explore additional services between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.
Rendell said that $145 million in improvements to the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg has boosted ridership by 26 percent. He has directed state agencies to “aggressively pursue” part of $8 billion set aside for the rail projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Critics are urging caution to Obama’s optimism. The Patriot-News Editorial Board wrote that it had seen plans for a rail system connecting Philadelphia to Pittsburgh through Harrisburg, before.
“The cost of connecting the dots in Pennsylvania will likely be substantially more than what President Barack Obama’s seed money can cover,” the editorial stated.
CBS News’ David Freddoso followed-up with a costly analysis comparing Obama’s $8 billion seed and 5-year $5 billion follow-through with other nation’s rail investments.

In the past decade, Taiwan built a single 215-mile high-speed passenger route for $15 billion. Germany, France, and Italy, often cited as advanced railroad nations, subsidize their rail systems heavily: Between 1995 and 2003, Germany spent $104 billion on subsidies, France spent $75 billion, and Italy spent $64 billion, according to a 2008 study by Amtrak’s inspector general. Rail ridership in Europe far outpaces that in the U.S., but in spite of these huge subsidies, trains have lost a significant portion of their market share to automobiles and planes since 1980.

State officials are keeping their heads high.
“We await the specific guidelines to be published by the U.S. Department of Transportation on how this money will be awarded, and we will look for ways to attract those funds to Pennsylvania,” Biehler said.
We may have to adjust our editorial vision here at Technically Philly if these plans are seen through.
Pittsburgh, we come in peace.

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