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High Speed Rail: What to do with $1.4 Billion?

On September 25th, 2023, the largest single investment by the Federal Government into railroads was distributed amongst hundreds of projects that applied for even a small share of the 1.45 billion dollars up for grabs. So that begs the question, where does 1.45 billion dollars go? Out of the 50 states in the union, 36 received federal dollars for railroad projects. But some states came out on top, others not so much. Here is the full breakdown across the 36 lucky states.

Figure 1: Percent of 1.45 Billion Dollars Distributed Across States Who Received Federal Money

Some surprising takeaways are Alabama and Mississippi who received 20% of all money totaling almost $300 million. California got a large share of the money, mostly going toward the ongoing CAHSR project.

Let’s now look at the categories. Categories were arbitrarily made and consisted of: projects focusing on Passenger Rail Service, Rail Restoration and subsequently grade crossings, technology improvements and green technology (often electric locomotives) and reducing trespassing and education programs. Individual spending was placed into the category with the closest fit of project intention.

So, looking at the spending distribution across the categories it looks well balanced. President Joe Biden and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have made claims that this is the largest investment into passenger rail service ever, discussing the 1.45 billion investments. But breaking it down only 42% or $606 million is actually ending up in direct passenger rail initiatives. The majority share is going to projects that focus on restoring and improving mostly freight rail projects. A good chunk of the 49% is going to bridge repair and elevated grade crossing construction which is still greatly needed.


Emerging Aviation Technology

In aviation, there is a lot of talk about personal air taxis. Although with so many new acronyms and definitions it gets confusing. So here is a short list of the current definitions for this new technology:

Advanced Air Mobility(AAM): This is the name given to all the new emerging technologies that would provide for personal transportation by air. This name is given by NASA and the FAA and is the main category for these small drone-like airplanes that someday will carry passengers.

Urban Air Mobility (UAM): Uses small, highly automated aircraft that fly at low altitudes. They can carry either people or cargo. Helicopters and drones fall into this category.

Electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL): These are electric aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter and do not require a runway. The main benefit of eVTOL is that will not produce any CO2 emissions because they are battery powered.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs): These are autonomous drones. Meaning an aircraft without a human pilot. This is the most challenging type of AAMs to develop, but several companies are trying to create UAVs that carry passengers, such as Volo Copter and EHang.

Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs): Are the same thing as UAVS but are designed to carry only one passenger.

Major players in the emerging Advanced Air Mobility market are:

· Eve


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high-speed rail and high-speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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