Elizabeth Warren throws support behind MA high-speed rail system

Dive Brief:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, has said she will push for federal funding for a high-speed rail system between Springfield, MA, and Boston, according to MassLive.
  • Warren said a Boston-Worcester-Springfield route is a potential fit with President Donald Trump's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan, and, to that end, state lawmakers have requested that such a line be included as one of the admnistration's designated projects.  
  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a bill that would have authorized a feasibility study of the proposed system, citing the need for a more encompassing transportation program.

Dive Insight:

If a high-speed line is not included as part of Trump's infrastructure strategy, then Warren and other proponents of the plan have their work cut out for them in obtaining federal funding if plans outlined in the president's recent 2018 budget proposal are adopted. The initial budget proposal, released last week, eliminates the Federal Transit Administration's capital investment program, which is where projects go to get significant matching funds. Another Massachusetts project, the Green Line light-rail extension in Boston, is in line for almost $1 billion from the FTA, but those funds could be in jeopardy under a new budget scheme.

According to the proposed budget, any project that does not have a full funding agreement from the FTA in hand will not get capital-investment grant money, even if it received initial approval from the agency. This could kill many transportation projects across the U.S., unless they end up on Trump's list of high-priority projects.

There are more than 50 projects at risk of losing anticipated FTA funding, including some that have been mired in controversy like the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project, the Minneapolis Southwest LRT, and the Maryland Purple Line project. The proposed cuts, however, still must make it through Congressional appropriations, which is sure to alter the budget plan.

Construction industry groups have taken a wait-and-see approach to Trump's budget, as they want to find out how the proposed cuts balance out with his promise of a broader infrastructure plan. However, Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs for the Associated General Contractors of America, told Construction Dive in an email last week that without seeing Trump's overall strategy, it is difficult not to "wonder how such cuts don’t contradict the President’s oft-repeated pledge to invest in infrastructure."

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Filed Under: Infrastructure
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