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Applications for US high-speed rail grants pour in

(Reuters circulated the following on October 13,2 009.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government has pushed back the timetable for awarding billions in economic stimulus grants for high-speed rail corridors after being deluged with applications.

Altogether, 24 states submitted 45 applications totaling about $50 billion, Transportation Department figures show.

The $787 billion economic stimulus package approved in February allocated $8 billion for high-speed rail investments.

Administration officials initially hoped to award grants this month, but the overwhelming response has pushed back the timetable until winter, officials said.

No date has been announced.

Nationwide, there are 10 corridors of at least 100 miles where states are building infrastructure to let trains surpass speeds of 110 miles per hour.

The Transportation Department also received applications from states this summer for developing high-speed rail projects individually.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called high-speed rail development a White House transportation priority for relieving air and road congestion.

Amtrak, the only long-haul U.S. passenger rail system, carried 27 million passengers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Its Acela Express service in the Northeast, the closest thing to high-speed service offered in the United States, carried 3 million people and pulled in $409 million in ticket sales.

Passenger rail ridership dropped overall last year due to the weak economy, Amtrak said.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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