Washington (CNN) — The Biden administration announced a multi-billion dollar boost to railway construction and improvements across the country on Friday – including what could become the nation’s first true high-speed rail line.
The rail grants, amounting to $8.2 billion, will be allocated toward 10 projects and are funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by Biden in November 2021. Biden has touted the law, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as a key accomplishment from his term – and one his campaign hopes voters will keep top of mind with less than a year to go until the 2024 election.
Following passage of the law, Biden – known for being an avid train rider during his time in the Senate – described it as the “most important investment in public transit in American history.”
Included in Friday’s announcement is $3 billion to fund the Brightline West project to connect Las Vegas, where Biden makes the Friday announcement, to Los Angeles in half the time it currently takes to drive.
Planners hope to complete that project in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called that an “aggressive timeline,” but said officials would be monitoring progress to keep it on track.
Also among the projects is a controversial high speed rail project connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. The California High Speed Rail project – which is years behind schedule – is a frequent target of political criticism over major rail investments.
The top House lawmaker on the subcommittee overseeing rail lines, Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, recently said at a hearing the project is “disastrous” and an example of “the failures of poor planning and government incompetence.” The Transportation Department in the past has even tried to claw back federal funding pumped into the rail line.
But on a call with reporters about the announcement, Buttigieg defended the project, saying it is “facing a lot of the challenges that come with being the first at anything.” He said the project’s virtues include economic and climate benefits, estimating it as the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the roads.
In all, Buttigieg said, the funding gives rail projects “the greatest level of acceleration we’ve seen in modern times.”
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