High Speed Rail in America:

Key Dates and Events


1.       President Obama's 2009 Stimulus Package – Also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus package was signed into law on February 17, 2009. The primary goal was to immediately save and create jobs, and the secondary goal was to invest in education, health care, renewable energy, and infrastructure. Eight billion dollars were appropriated for the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail System.


2.       President Obama and Vice President Biden at a Joint Session of Congress –  In an address on February 24, 2009, President Obama stated “Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges...and expanding mass transit.”  Vice President Biden stated “I'm more happy than you can imagine to talk about a commitment that, with the President's leadership, we're making to achieve the goal through the development of high-speed rail projects that will extend eventually all across this nation.”


3.       FRA Announced HSR Strategic Plan – On April 1, 2009 the FRA released a detailed plan for the HSR program outlining the funding approach, a timeline for the project's potential and current challenges and proposed legislation.


4.       CHSR to Include Las Vegas – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on July 2, 2009 that the federally designated California corridor would extend to Las Vegas, providing potential funding for the Desert Express, now known as XpressWest.


5.       2010 State of the Union Address – January 27, 2010 President Obama stated, “Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.”


6.       President Obama and Vice President Biden Held HSR Rally in Florida – January 28, 2010 the President and Vice President announced recipients of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money for HSR at the University of Tampa. About $1 billion would go toward improving the line between Chicago and St. Louis. California would receive $2.25 billion as a down payment for its plan to build high-speed rail, and Florida would receive $1.25 billion for an 84 mile track between Tampa and Orlando. Florida later received additional funding for the line from Orlando to Miami.


7.       Republicans won back the House in 2010 Elections - Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives on November 2, 2010. The election resulted in the highest loss of a party in a House midterm election since 1938 and the largest House swing since 1948. The Representatives gained 63 seats in the House, 29 of the 50 state governorships, and 690 seats in state legislatures.


8.       HSR Hearing in Grand Central Station – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing at the New York City historic train station on HSR on January 27, 2011. The hearing was led by Chairman John Mica, with former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Thomas Hart, Petra Todorovich and others. Both men, co-chairs of the infrastructure advocacy organization Building America’s Future, expressed support for high-speed rail but suggested that the money should be more narrowly targeted to the Northeast Corridor.


9.       Three Republican Governors returned HSR Grant Money – February 16, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott became the third Republican Governor to reject the money given to his state for HSR development. He returned $2.4 billion to the federal government because he feared Florida taxpayers would be stuck with construction and maintenance costs when federal funds ran out. He followed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who returned $810 million, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who returned $400 million both on December 9, 2010. Ray LaHood immediately reallocated the funds to Amtrak, St. Louis – Chicago, California, and Texas.


10.    Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 – This bill extended funding for surface transportation and provided funding for mass transit systems. It was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressmen and signed by President Obama on March 4, 2011. It extended the allocation of capital investment grant funds for federal transit programs through FY2011.


11.    Significant Passenger Train Wrecks – On July 23, 2011, the first high-speed rail collision in China occurred when two trains collided due to faulty signal systems. Forty people were killed, and over 190 were injured. On July 24, 2013, a high-speed train in Spain derailed. There were 79 fatalities and 140 injuries. On May 12, 2015, the Amtrak train Northeast Regional traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York City derailed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania due to loss of situational awareness by the engineer. The train was traveling at about 102 mph in a 50 mph zone on a track that was not equipped with Positive Train Control. Eight people were killed and over 200 were injured.


12.    8th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail – The UIC was held in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, PA in July 2012. It was a global high speed rail conference that brought together 1,000 delegates from 37 countries, 32 CEOs from railway companies, and 2,700 guests. It was the largest train conference in the nation's history.


13.    President Obama and Republican Governors Re-elected – President Obama was reelected and so were the three Governors who returned the HSR grants in the 2012 general election. Democrats held control of the Senate and Republicans remained in control of the House and the majority of governors in the gubernatorial elections.


14.    Chicago to St. Louis Rail Line Began Higher Speed Service – On November 22, 2012, the 15 mile section of track between Dwight and Pontiac, Illinois began operating at 110 mph speeds, the maximum speed planned for the corridor.



15.    Private Rail Company in Florida Received Finding from FRA – In January of 2013, All Aboard Florida received a Finding of No Significant Impact from the FRA, clearing the way to begin construction on the new rail line to connect Orlando and Miami. Construction began on the Miami to West Palm Beach section in mid-2014.


16.    Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood Announced Resignation – On January 29, 2013, Ray LaHood announced his resignation from the Department of Transportation. His last day in office was July 2, 2013 and he was replaced by former Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina Anthony Foxx.


17.    California HSR Broke Ground – California became the first state to break ground on a true high-speed rail project on January 6, 2015, more than six years after the voters approved $9 billion in high-speed rail bonds. The HSR line will connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. Governor Jerry Brown and other elected officials spoke to hundreds of people at the groundbreaking ceremony in downtown Fresno, and a few protesters stood nearby shouting “show me the money.”


18.    Chicago to St. Louis Line Broke Ground on a New Station – On August 11, 2015, the Illinois Department of Transportation broke ground on the first new station in Dwight, Illinois.


19.    California Judge Dismissed Lawsuit Against HSR – A Sacramento County Superior Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit on March 8, 2016 that sought to stop the building of the California HSR bullet train. The suit, brought by Kings County and two farmers, alleged that the project did not comply with restrictions that voters put in place in 2008. Judge Michael Kenny wrote that there were still “too many unknown variables” and that the suit was “not ripe for review.” The case held up the project for five years.


20.    Texas Statewide HSR – In April, 2016, Texas Central filed documents with the federal Surface Transportation Board indicating that it is ready to begin acquiring right-of-way for HSR track. This will mark the beginning of eminent domain negotiations with landowners. The FRA approved the rail corridor on August 26, 2015, one month after the company announced that it had raised $75 million for the $10 billion project from private investors. The company is currently meeting with stakeholders along the corridor to finalize the rail route.