From Nortwest Indiana Times:
A Republican effort to kill funding for President Barack Obama’s signature high-speed rail program will not affect the $71.4 Indiana Gateway project centered on improvements at Porter Junction.
Money for the Indiana Gateway project, which will create 700 jobs, already has been appropriated and awarded, according to officials at the Indiana Department of Transportation and Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
“Our understanding is the Congressional action will not put those funds in jeopardy,” John Swanson, NIRPC executive director, said Thursday.
House and Senate negotiators agreed to a measure this week that eliminates any new funding specifically for high-speed trains in fiscal year 2012. Final passage of the bill, which funds day-to-day operations at the Transportation Department and several other agencies in fiscal 2012, was expected Thursday in the House and Friday in the Senate.
Republican lawmakers are now claiming credit for killing the president’s high-speed rail program, but billions of dollars already in the pipeline from the Obama stimulus package will ensure work will continue on many projects.
Those include $196.5 million awarded for improvements to the Michigan portion of the Chicago-to-Detroit high-speed rail route in October. The Porter Junction is a key link on that route, with the Indiana Gateway project meant to alleviate the frequent delays of Amtrak trains that now take place there.
As many as 90 freight and 14 Amtrak trains per day make their way through Porter Junction, a web of tracks on the town line between Porter and Chesterton.
Money for the Indiana Gateway project was Indiana’s sole win in the competition for high-speed rail funds two years ago.
Negotiations between the Federal Railroad Administration, INDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corp. on reconfiguring tracks at Porter Junction are continuing, according to INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton. Once an agreement between them is final, the construction work can proceed.
Since Obama took office in 2009, his administration has steered $10.1 billion to high-speed rail projects around the country. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday the money already dished out will result in more than $1 billion in high-speed rail projects across the country next year.
The transportation bill Congress is set to pass this week marks “an end to the president’s misguided high-speed rail program, but it is not the end of American high-speed rail,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s railroad subcommittee.
Shuster and the Transportation Committee’s chairman, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., say the future of high-speed rail in the U.S. is in the Northeast rail corridor that connects Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, rather than the national network of trains envisioned by Obama.