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Obama to Biden: Talk to Me About High Speed Rail

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At today's official announcement of high speed rail funds given to various states, including here in California, in Tampa, Florida, President Barack Obama turned to train lover Vice President Joe Biden--he used to ride 250 miles a day--and asked, "Now, Joe, in terms of the high-speed rail here, do you have something specific to say?"

Biden's talks about awards in Republican-Governor states (like California), why we won a big award and the costs of building roads vs. tracks. His answer is below:

I'll make it real simple. Think of the Interstate Highway System in the '50s. What you did is you pick the portions where you could begin to build where there was the most likely to have the heaviest traffic, so that people would use it the most, and then just build that out. What we did is we picked -- the Department of Transportation picked the Orlando-Tampa route, Tampa-Orlando, because you were most ready, your plans were the most advanced -- (applause) -- and the objective is it's not just going to be here, it's all the way -- going to come around all the way heading up going down to Miami as well. (Applause.) That's why we picked California. California, Mr. President, there's over a $2 billion investment because they had plans, they're ready to go.

And I might add, they're both Republican governors -- so we didn't pick this based on politics. I mean this sincerely. (Applause.) So we're picking the places that make the most sense, have the highest density, are ready to go. And there's been $55 billion worth of requests coming from the states. The good news about that, Mr. President, is we're also funding, with some of the money, planning efforts, because some of the plans aren't complete enough.

And lastly, Mr. President, we are making a big difference with a portion of this money -- over a billion dollars of the $8 billion -- on taking railroads, for example, from Richmond to Washington, that go 65 miles an hour. By getting that up to 110 miles an hour you take a whole lot of cars off the highway, it becomes economically reasonable to do it. So we're taking corridors that in fact exist where we can increase the mileage enough that it can make a difference on congestion.

And I'll point out one thing: I-95 -- and you all know I-95 on the other side of the state -- I-95 going all the way up at Marway (phonetic) in the congested areas cost $22 million per lane to build per mile. You can build this railroad for less than $2 million in that. (Applause.) So it makes sense. It's where it works. And we're going to have to build it out. (Applause.)