Rail, both freight and passenger, has been placed in the budget spotlight with the President requesting $6.6 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), up $5 billion from actual 2012 numbers, and $10.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), a slight increase from the $10.6 billion spent in 2012.
The requested $6.6 billion for the FRA includes a multi-year high-speed and intercity passenger rail program that would establish a National High Performance Rail System (NHPRS) program. According to the administration, the NHPRS would use an integrated approach to improve rail safety, promote economic competitiveness, ensure cost-effective rail investments and support domestic manufacturing and jobs.
Among the specific requests of the NHPRS, the Northeast Corridor would receive $675 million; state corridors would receive $300 million; long-distance routes would receive $800 million and national assets, those rail facilities that form Amtrak's "backbone," would receive $925 million.
Also included in the FRA budget numbers: $3.7 billion for a rail service improvement program; $54.7 million to stimulate research, develop and technology; $184.5 million for FRA's safety and development programs and $35.3 million for safety-related research and development activities.
FTA's requested budget is meant "to strengthen transit safety oversight, bring bus and rail transit infrastructure into a state of good repair and provide new and expanded transit systems in communities nationwide."
Among the highlights of the proposed FTA budget is an additional $195 million in New Starts funding that would go toward two Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority projects, the Regional Connector Transit Corridor and the Purple Line Extension, as well as Washington state's Columbia River Crossing project, which includes a light-rail extension.
In reaction to the proposed budget, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took to his FastLane blog and wrote, "This country needs--and its people deserve--a modern transportation network that helps create jobs, encourages businesses to expand, and helps us compete in a global economy. That's exactly the transportation system that the President's 2014 budget for DOT seeks to build."