PHILADELPHIA — The Obama administration wants to invest $53 billion in high-speed and intercity rail service in the next six years, expanding a signature transportation initiative it already has targeted with $10.5 billion.
The plan to spend billions more on a vast high-speed-rail network was cast by the administration as vital to keeping the United States competitive with world markets that already use the technology.
"Public infrastructure investment raises private-sector productivity," Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday, continuing a theme struck by the president in his State of the Union speech last month. "They literally are the veins and arteries of commerce."
Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the plan Tuesday in Philadelphia's majestic 30th Street Station. Obama's budget for fiscal 2012, which will be sent to Congress next week, includes $8 billion for the plan.
There is bipartisan support for construction of high-speed-rail service, but sharp disagreement on whether it should be funded with tax dollars or through private investment.
The proposal drew immediate criticism from House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Winter Park, who favors construction of high-speed rail largely with private funds.
"This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio," Mica said. "With the first $10.5 billion in administration rail grants, we found that … what the administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere."
The grants have included $2.4 billion for a planned Orlando-to-Tampa line, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he is awaiting a ridership study before deciding to proceed because the state would have to pick up part of the cost.