In recent years, boosts in—and controversies over—federal funding have made high-speed, intercity passenger rail a high-profile issue.  In January 2010, 31 states were awarded a portion of the $8 billion made available for high-speed rail through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Congress approved $2.5 billion more for high-speed rail in FY 2010 appropriations, but zeroed out the funding for FY 2011 and FY 2012. In addition, in the months following the 2010 elections, three states—Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin—voluntarily forfeited some or all federal high-speed rail funds they had previously been awarded.

From 2009 through 2011, the NCSL High-Speed Rail Working Group provided state legislators and legislative staff with a forum to discuss their concerns, goals and strategies for the development of high-speed rail in their states and regions. During this time, NCSL produced many high-speed rail resources including a LegisBrief, a State Legislatures cover story, a white paper, a chart of federally designated high-speed rail corridors, educational sessions in 2009 and 2010, a public hearing, a webinar and a working group letter to President Obama. In addition, a foundational 1996 report on high-speed rail history and options in the United States is available upon request.


Viable passenger and freight railroads are essential to achieving a balanced intermodal transportation system and ensuring personal mobility, the free flow of commerce and national security. It can provide land use alternatives, promote economic development, address environmental issues and offer an alternative to highway and air travel.

States have a role in rail planning, development, funding, incentives, safety and security. In addition, about half the states have acquired railroad facilities to prevent corridor abandonment and preserve or enhance rail service to communities and businesses. In recent years, federal policy concerning passenger rail in particular has increasingly focused on state-federal partnerships—similar to those already in place for highways, transit and aviation—with an enhanced state role in rail planning and funding.

NCSL provides informational resources on both freight and passenger rail, including high-speed rail.



freight and passenger trains


In addition to our many materials on high-speed rail, NCSL tracks state bills that propose to fund passenger rail and transit in this database: