Recovery Act Invests $9.3 Billion to Expand High-Speed Rail

Recovery Act Invests $9.3 Billion to Expand High-Speed Rail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2009

Recovery Act Invests $9.3 Billion to Expand High-Speed Rail in America

The final version of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act now before Congress includes an unprecedented $8 billion investment in high-speed rail. In addition, Amtrak will receive $1.3 billion to
rebuild trains and improve its capacity.

“We commend President Obama and Congress for helping to get America moving again with modern trains,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Investing
in high-speed rail projects will put people to work quickly, create new economic opportunities, increase mobility and reduce traffic congestion and pollution.”

The $8 billion made available through the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be awarded competitively to states to improve passenger rail service, primarily on those corridors where 110 mph
service is proposed. Funds can also be used on conventional rail projects that relieve congestion. The Midwest is very well positioned, with federally designated high-speed rail corridors radiating out in a
hub-and-spoke network from Chicago to St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center has long called for the development of a Midwest high-speed rail network. Governors and state Departments of Transportation have embraced high-speed rail as
modern, fast, comfortable and convenient. We have done the homework and prep work. These projects are now ready to build,” said Learner. “We look forward to working with the states to meet Congress’s challenge to rebuild America with cleaner transportation.”

“Congress has moved on the right track toward economic recovery,” said Learner. “Investing in modern, high-speed rail is an important down payment on America’s transportation future.”

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NOTE: Due to very high web traffic, the bill itself is difficult to download from Congress’s website. ELPC has made the documents available on its website at:
http://elpc.org/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-information

The Environmental Law and Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization.

www.elpc.org

www.iowaglobalwarming.org

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Nine Predictions for 2009

(The 2008 Bleeding Heartland election prediction champion gets out the crystal ball for the year to come... - promoted by desmoinesdem)

My apologies for not getting this in closer to the actual new year, but you could say that “a day late and a dollar short” has been the theme of the new year so far for me. Or five days short, as the case may be.

In any case, before we start the new political year for real, I thought it might be fun to share our predictions for the new year. Here are nine predictions of mine for two thousand and nine.

1. The state budget is in far worse shape then we think. Expect the fight over the budget to get ugly, quick.

The Iowa state fiscal year runs from July 1 2008 to June 30 2009–right in the heart of the economic meltdown. Given that the estimates for this period are just starting to come in, it's reasonable to assume that the stories we're currently hearing about the “budget crisis” represent only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Likewise, the 1.5% across-the-board cut currently proposed by Gov. Culver isn't going to be nearly enough to solve the crisis. It's going to get ugly and fast.

2. Unemployment will hit 10% by the end of 2009, and recovery will not come until early 2010.

Call me a pessimist, but I think things are going to get much worse before they get better. When you combine the potential failure of the Big 3 (a still unresolved issue, by the way), plus a global manufacturing slowdown, with the fact that up to 25% of retail stores may declare bankrupcy in the next year–you have the recipie for unmitigated economic disaster.  

To complicate matters, I do not expect President Obama's recovery measures to be passed before May of this year. (There are already signs that a long battle is ahead for this bill.) That means that many of the infrastructure projects given funds through the program will miss out on the summer construction window–meaning they likely won't start until Summer 2010. Many other measures, like tax cuts or social programs won't go into effect until 2010 as well…moving the light at the end of the tunnel further and further away.

3. The Big 3 will not survive in their current form. Get ready for the Big 2.

Regardless of whether the auto bailout was the correct move at the time, by the time the big ball drops in 2010–there will no longer be a Big 3 as we know them now. My best guess is that one of the Big 3 automakers (most likely Chrysler) will implode into disorganized bankrupcy. No buyer will be found, and the brand will simply cease to exist. This will spark a crisis that will either lead to the organized bankrupcy/restructuring of the other companies, or government assistance with severe Bob Corker style conditions. 

The good news is that out of the multitude of laid-off engineers and designers, we could see new  and innovative technologies, designs, and companies form. By 2020 we could all be driving solar hybrids designed and built by ex-Big 3 designers who started their own companies.

6. The Supreme Court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage in the case of Varnum v. Brien.

Beware the ides of March rings true in Iowa in 2009. Expect a ruling on the case of Varnum v. Brien to come down with a rulings for several other cases on March 13, the conclusion of the Court's March session. When that happens expect a whirlwind of craziness to descend on the state: national media, a rush of spring weddings, celebrity attention, half-cocked legal challenges, right-wing rants, Fred Phelps-ian protests, legislative blustering, Steve Deace's head exploding, and who knows what else.

I don't think the moon turning to blood, the dead walking the streets, or any other Pat Robertson-style pronouncements will come true…but expect a wild ride.

5. The Republican candidate for Governor will be a serious contender who already holds a major elected office.

The current fight over the RPI chair has a definite and familiar theme: change. Old hacks are out, new hacks are in. While there is a faction of the GOP that clings to BVP like life preserver, the majority of the party is, I think, waiting for someone new to come along.

That someone is either State Auditor David Vaudt, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, or 4th District Congressman Tom Latham.

Vaudt looks to emerge as one of the main faces of opposition to Culver on budget issues, a position he could use to slingshot him to the governorship. Northey is the darling of the Republican Party and, with agricultural issues on the back-burner this year and little to do, may find the Governor's race an attractive prospect. Latham, by all measures a low-importance member of the minority party might decide that its now or never for him. And he has nothing to lose: if he wins, he's the Governor; if he loses, he can run again as the elder-statesman in the dogfight that will be the new 3rd district.

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