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US government to announce high-speed rail subsidies

(AFP circulated the following on August 24, 2009.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The US government will begin announcing subsidies for high-speed rail projects, part of the economic stimulus package, in late September, a US official said Monday.

"We expect the first grant announcements will be made in late September, early October," Mark Paustenbach, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, told AFP.

The department announced in mid-July that it had been swamped with proposals from state and local governments seeking financing for high-speed rail systems.

Candidates have until midnight Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday) to submit their grant bids.

According to the department, the first round of grant applications, which closed in July, generated 278 requests with a combined total of 102 billion dollars, nearly eight time the budgeted funds.

The 787-billion-dollar stimulus package of President Barack Obama's administration passed in February allocates eight billion dollars to high-speed rail. More than one billion dollars a year are budgeted over five years.

The Obama administration says the grants are the first step toward building a high-speed rail system nationally.

The United States currently lags far behind rail transport systems in Japan, France, Germany and China.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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