President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address Wednesday evening, and it's reported that Thursday morning he’ll go to Tampa, Florida, with his vice president and transportation secretary.
So there’s talk in Washington that Obama plans Thursday to announce the winners of $8 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects – and that Florida, of course, will be one of them.
What about us?
North Carolina is among the contenders for rail money, with a request for $5.7 billion to build out its fast-train network from Charlotte through Raleigh to Richmond. (Virginia is picking up the plan for getting the train from Richmond to Washington.)
Pat Simmons, rail division director for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, says he is optimistic but doesn’t know what will happen. Presumably, an announcement in Tampa would mention all the winners and not just Florida.
“I plainly do not know the details of that,” Simmons said today. “And I have tried really hard to find out.”
North Carolina’s proposal includes beefing up the existing rail service with faster and more frequent trains from Raleigh to Charlotte, building a new line north from Raleigh to Richmond and, while we’re at it, extending new rail passenger service as far west as Asheville and as far east as Wilmington.
The Obama administration’s official line is that the high-speed rail decision will be announced sometime this winter. Along with the $8 billion approved in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress has included another $2.5 billion for high speed rail in this year’s budget.
The conventional wisdom pundits don’t mention North Carolina much when they handicap the fast-train sweepstakes. They talk about the northeast corridor from Boston to New York and Washington, a midwest proposal centered on Chicago, and a California proposal.
But so far, it’s only talk. Soon, maybe on Thursday, an announcement will end the talk.