A number of interested parties in California have been lobbying the federal government to receive funding for high-speed rail projects, and our friends at the Center for Public Integrity have an interactive map that tracks them.
Last week, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced $2.3 billion in stimulus funds to help create "a new, electrically powered high-speed rail system of 800 miles serving major population centers from San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego."
The administration also announced $51 million to improve Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner route connecting San Diego and Los Angeles, so that it can "ultimately allow for top speeds of 110 mph," according to the list of awards. California also would get new money for system-wide emission-control equipment, and for improvements to the San Jose Diridon Station and the route between Davis and Sacramento.
The administration is distributing $8 billion for 30 high-speed rail projects throughout the country. Not surprisingly, Washington, D.C., lobbyists have been on full alert:
As the Center for Public Integrity reported in November, money for high-speed rail – starting with that $8 billion – has unleashed a new frenzy of lobbying. Lobbying on high-speed rail – from both the public and private sector – more than tripled in the third quarter of 2009, compared to a year earlier.
According to the Center for Public Integrity's map, Patton Boggs – the highest-paid lobbying firm in Washington – represents the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles on the high-speed rail issue. "Former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater is a partner at the firm," the center said, "but its municipal lobbying is done by other individuals."
The California High Speed Rail Authority, which oversees the project in California, employed Kadesh & Associates to lobby on their behalf in the nation's Capitol. The lobbying firm had "two former aides to Sen. Dianne Feinstein" lobbying for the rail authority, according to the center.
In addition "high-speed rail development," was listed among the many issues lobbied by the University of California, which recently opened a new campus near Fresno, a stop on the future line.
In addition, the center said engineering firm AECOM is working on high-speed rail, and their lobbyists include former U.S. Transportation Secretary James Burnley and the firm Greenberg Traurig. The Greenberg Traurig lobbying team includes "a former House Transportation Committee staffer," according to the center.
The Center for Public Integrity also identified American Magline Group as an interested party lobbying on high-speed rail activities in California. "The private consortium of companies – looking to build a high-speed train from Anaheim to Nevada using magnetic levitation technology – pays Richard Alcalde's Washington, D.C. firm Potomac Partners to lobby on its behalf," according to the map.
Even before the Obama administration's announcement, California's plan for high-speed rail was accelerating, after voters in 2008 approved $9.95 billion in bond funding. Here's a video showing how it would work: