After months of prolonged negotiation, House Democrats have finally released the draft text language of their budget reconciliation proposal. Despite massively scaled back ambitions—the topline number has dropped from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion over the course of the year—Congressional Democrats were steadfast in their support of high-speed rail, including $10 billion in dedicated funding over five years.
This is a huge win for the high-speed rail coalition that fought hard for these funds, which includes elected officials, rail labor, high-speed rail organizations, rail manufacturers, and passenger groups like Rail Passengers.
The $10 billion in high-speed rail funding will be directed through the new Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Emissions Reduction (PRIME) grant program. At least $1 billion will go towards planning activities, such as environmental assessments, economic analyses, and feasibility studies. Other eligible include right-of-way acquisition costs, constructing and upgrading tracks and facilities, procuring new equipment, highway-rail grade crossing improvements, and communication and signalization improvements, among others. To qualify for funding, target corridors must be “reasonably expected to reach speeds of 160 miles per hour or more on shared-use right-of-way or 186 miles per hour or more on dedicated right-of-way.”
Critically, the PRIME program will cover as much as 90 percent of a project’s cost, lowering the barrier to entry for states, interstate compacts, and public agencies developing greenfield high-speed rail corridors.
It’s important to remember: this bill is just a draft. There’s no guarantee that high-speed rail funding will survive in the final version of the bill. Now is the time to tell your Members of Congress you support high-speed rail!