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Agence France Presse

Obama, Biden to Direct $8Bln Into High-Speed Rail

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are to direct $8 billion in economic stimulus funding toward a long-awaited high-speed rail system. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Joe Raedle)

MIAMI - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will on Thursday direct $8 billion in economic stimulus funding toward a long-awaited US high-speed rail system.

The announcement will apportion the funding among various state governments, with Florida Senator Bill Nelson saying his state expected to have part of their bid approved.

The administration had previously announced the figure for funding under Obama's $787 billion Recovery Act, but will offer more details at a town hall meeting in Tampa, Florida, an administration official said.

"This will be one of the largest boosts to the state's economy since Disney, since the interstate highway system," Nelson said in a statement.

Nelson said Florida had sought $2.5 billion of funding for the project, but the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported the state was in line for between $1.25 and $1.4 billion. Related article: Obama's State of the Union address

In December, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed legislation supporting the creation of a high-speed rail system in the state, saying it would add jobs to the struggling local economy, where unemployment is at nearly 12 percent.

The awards to state governments are a down payment on planned high speed rail corridors and will be billed as a plan to create tens of thousands of jobs, as American workers suffer under 10 percent unemployment.

The $8 billion investment is part of a five-year $13 billion plan for high-speed rail also funded through the annual budget process.

Obama hailed his high-speed rail proposal at an event in April when he said it would "change the way we travel in America," and dubbed Biden, a former rail commuter as "America's number one rail fan."

The president's strategy envisions high speed rail corridors, including in California, northwestern Pacific states, the southern United States, the Gulf (of Mexico) Coast and Florida.

The United States does not yet have any commercial high-speed railway -- which use a wider track bed than traditional trains -- similar to those operational in for years Japan and Europe.

So far it only has a higher-speed train which leans slightly on the traditional narrow track that opened up the western United States in the 1800s.

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