Dear Chair Schatz, Chair Price, Ranking Member Collins, and Ranking Member Diaz-Balart,
As you begin work on the Subcommittees’ Fiscal Year 2023 THUD appropriations bills, werequest $3.5 billion for high-speed rail corridor development, with at least $350 million set asidefor planning grants, and report language directing funding to true high-speed rail systems.Investing in these advanced and proven transportation systems will support long-term Americaneconomic growth, quality of life, passenger safety, and sustainability.
Compared with other major economies, U.S. surface transportation policy has long ignoredserious investment in advanced passenger rail. Even the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, with itshistoric investment in rail, fails to dedicate a single dollar to the high-speed rail program.
However, regions across the U.S. are launching ambitious high-speed rail infrastructureinitiatives, and support for high-speed rail is strong and growing among the American people andin Congress, where it was included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act. A Record ofDecision has been completed for international-standard high-speed rail between Charlotte andAtlanta. Washington State’s Department of Transportation has projected that an ultra-high-speedtrail partnership with Oregon, British Columbia, Canada, and Microsoft could yield a $355billion return by unlocking a new economic megaregion on a $24 to $42 billion investment.1 Thenew Illinois High-Speed Rail Commission will develop plans for high-speed service between Chicago and St. Louis. Private projects are ready for construction in Texas and Nevada, with the latter connecting LasVegas to the California system.
Americans and the U.S. economy should benefit from the same high-quality, high-speedpassenger rail service deployed in other advanced economies such as the UK, the EU, and Japan,where high-speed rail is vital infrastructure that supports commerce, quality of life, andenvironmental sustainability. In recent years, China has made massive and rapid investments inits own high-speed rail infrastructure. For decades, the U.S. has fallen behind.
In addition to its economic and quality-of-life benefits, high speed rail is also a safer mode ofintercity travel. In the United States in 2020, 42,060 people died in motor vehicle crashes. Japaninaugurated its first high-speed rail line in 1964, with zero deaths or injuries due to crashes in 58years.
High-speed rail, an all-electric mode of transportation, also has the potential to dramaticallyreduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Our transportation sector contributed 29% of UnitedStates emissions in 2019.2 High-speed rail currently emits less carbon per passenger-mile thandriving3 or flying4 and will emit even less as the U.S. transitions to low or no-emissions powersources.
In addition to $3.5 billion for the federal high-speed rail program, with a 10% set aside forplanning grants, we request inclusion of the following report language:
High-speed rail assistance.—The Committee recognizes the importance of high-speed rail for meeting ournation’s economic, social, and environmental needs. The Committee also recognizes that defining acorridor as high-speed requires the project to surpass current speed standards. For this purpose, theCommittee directs the Secretary of Transportation and Administrator of the Federal RailroadAdministration to prioritize grants funded under Chapter 261 of Title 49, United States Code, for passengerrail projects that are reasonably expected to achieve at least 186 miles per hour on new, dedicated right-of-way and 160 miles per hour on shared right-of-way. Additionally, the Committee recognizes the value ofbuilding a pipeline of high-speed rail projects for development. In order to achieve a robust nationalnetwork, the Committee directs the Federal Railroad Administration to prioritize planning grants forcommunities where there is no current high-speed rail passenger service nor construction.
We respectfully urge you to include the above report language and $3.5 billion total for high-speed rail assistance grants (Chapter 261 of Title 49, United States Code) in the FY23 THUDAppropriations bills. Thank you for your consideration of these requests.