WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jump-start job creation.
An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 miles per hour, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn't say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it's likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.
Obama's push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new spending on infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month's State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.
Joe Ferguson, who has spearheaded much of the effort to get a high-speed line from Atlanta to Chattanooga as manager of special projects for the Enterprise Center, said he didn't have any "inside information," but said the president's announcement could only help the local project.
Not long ago, the potential Chattanooga-Atlanta line was added to the high speed rail map on the White House web site as part of the Miami to Chicago route.
"That's been the pitch we've had all along," Ferguson said. "That's what we've said this line should be."