Biden announces $53 billion high-speed rail plan






-- The Obama administration is proposing to spend $53 billion over the next six years to help promote the construction of a national high-speed, intercity passenger rail network, Vice President Joe Biden announced Tuesday.

The proposal represents a significant expansion of the $10.5 billion already spent on high-speed rail expansion since Obama entered office, including $8 billion in the 2009 economic stimulus package.

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters potential funding sources for the plan will be outlined in the president's proposed budget, which is scheduled to be released next week.

President Barack Obama said in last month's State of the Union address that he was setting a goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

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The proposed new investment -- including $8 billion in the upcoming fiscal year -- would accompany a streamlined application process for cities, states, and private companies seeking federal grants and loans to develop railway capacity.

"There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation -- one of which is infrastructure," Biden said in a written statement. There is a pressing need "to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced."

Biden, who commuted regularly by train between Washington and his home state of Delaware during a 36-year Senate tenure, has been a prominent advocate for railway travel and, more specifically, Amtrak.

A new high-speed rail investment, however, may face a cool reception in the new, more Republican Congress.

GOP leaders have called for more spending cuts in the wake of spiraling federal deficits.

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Obama has also called for more fiscal responsibility, proposing in his State of the Union address a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending.