Demand for high-speed rail funding swells

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:57pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Transportation said on Monday it continues to see high demand for funds to build high-speed passenger rail.

The department said it had received 20 applications from 10 states totaling $7.8 billion for developing high-speed rail corridors and 57 applications from 18 states totaling $700 million for smaller projects within rail corridors.

They are competing for $2.3 billion appropriated by the federal government for this fiscal year.

"The response to our call to transform America's transportation landscape has been tremendous and shows the country is ready for high-speed rail," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

The $862 billion economic stimulus plan provided $8 billion for states to kick off high-speed rail in a country where travelers rely on interstate highways and planes for long distance travel.

President Barack Obama also requested appropriations of a little under $3 billion in his budget proposals for the last fiscal year and the current one.

According to the board charged with monitoring the stimulus plan's spending, $7.8 billion of the high-speed rail funds have been paid out. Meanwhile, the Transportation Department has awarded states more than $583 million from its fiscal 2010 budget.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; editing by Todd Eastham)

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