Fostering the development of high‐speed rail (HSR) and other intercity passenger service in the United States has been an important part of the work of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) since its creation in 1967.
Since 1964, the United States has been exploring the notion of high-speed rail transportation, around the time Japan built the first Shinkansen line and before any of the European countries built their high-speed rail lines. This visionary thinking is reflected in the chronology below, which summarizes the Federal policy and fiscal investments towards making this efficient transportation alternative a reality.
1965- The High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965, initially authorized at $90 million, passes and marks the start of a Federal effort to develop and demonstrate contemporary and advanced HSGT technologies.
1969 – With funding from the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965, FRA deploys modern HSGT technologies, such as the self-propelled Metroliner cars and the Turbotrain, in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and introduces a multi-modal, long-term planning effort for the NEC.
1970 – The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 passes, creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to ensure continued operation of an intercity rail passenger network in the United States.
1971 -- Amtrak assumes the responsibility for operating intercity rail service in most of the United States, including the Northeast Corridor.
1975 – Appropriations from the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 end; Congressional efforts shift to upgrading the Northeast Corridor infrastructure.
1976 – The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 passes, appropriating funding for the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP). The NECIP, initiating a massive engineering and construction effort to improve performance and reliability of the NEC, also provides the foundation for a reliable HSGT intercity service in the Northeast.
1980 – 1981 – Amtrak and FRA develop and issue a series of reports on “Emerging Corridors” in the United States.
1984 – Under the Passenger Railroad Rebuilding Act of 1980, $4 million in grants is set aside for HSGT corridor studies at the State level, including engineering and design studies. This act also signifies increased state involvement in the exploration of high-speed rail.
Late 1980’s – Congress begins to show interest in Maglev technology as a possible solution for high-speed rail in America, requesting FRA to assess its feasibility in the United States.
1990 - FRA submits a preliminary Maglev report to Congress.
1991 - The National Maglev Initiative (NMI) is launched with an initial appropriation of $12 million, allowing FRA to examine a variety of safety issues to determine required regulatory activity with respect to HSGT safety. Also, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) (PL 102-240) becomes law, calling for the selection of not more than five corridors to be designated as high-speed rail corridors.
1992 – FRA designates the five high-speed rail corridors called for in ISTEA:
1993 – FRA submits its Final Report on the National Maglev Initiative.
1997 – FRA submits the High Speed Ground Transportation Commercial Feasibility Study (CFS) Report to Congress. This report examines the economics of bringing high-speed ground transportation (HSGT) to well-populated groups of cities throughout the United States.
1998 – 1999 – The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (PL 105-178) passes. Section 1103 (c) authorized six additional corridor designations, for a total of eleven, as well as the extension of other previously designated corridors.
It also authorizes $250,000 per year for eligible improvements on the Minneapolis/St. Paul-Chicago segment of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Corridor. Section 1218 created a National Magnetic Levitation Transportation Technology Deployment Program to select and fund the most promising projects through a competitive process.
2000 – USDOT designates two new high-speed rail corridors for a total of ten and approves the extension of four corridors.
The Secretary also clarified that “the designated California corridor comprehends the entire region lying between and among the extensive metropolitan areas of the San Francisco Bay, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego.”
2001 – FRA approves the extension of the Chicago Hub corridor from St. Louis, MO to Kansas City, MO.
2004 – Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, (PL 108-447) becomes law. Section 154 calls for extension of the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor from Boston, MA, to Springfield, MA and Albany, NY, and from Springfield, MA, to New Haven, CT.
2008 – The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) passes, establishing the initial framework for the development of the high-speed rail corridors.
2009 – Using the framework established by PRIIA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passes. It allocates $8 billion to be granted to states for intercity rail projects, giving priority to projects that support the development of high-speed intercity rail. President Obama, together with Vice President Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, announces a new vision for developing high-speed intercity passenger rail in America. Shortly thereafter, FRA releases the High Speed Rail Strategic Plan.
FRA later issues a Notice of Funding Availability for ARRA funds and FY09 annual appropriations, soliciting applications and providing guidance for high-speed intercity rail projects as well as marking the launch of the HSIPR Program. Also, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announces extension of the California High-Speed Rail Corridor to Las Vegas, Nevada.
2010 – FRA releases Notices of Funding Availability for FY10 annual appropriations.
2011- USDOT LaHood announces the designation of the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which includes the existing NEC main rail line and any alternative routings for intercity passenger train service between the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.Also,FRA releases a Notice of Funding Availability for FY10 and ARRA funds, soliciting applications for an additional $2 billion in high-speed rail awards.