Gov. Jennifer Granholm told Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Wednesday that Michigan not only wants a high-speed rail line, it wants to build the cars carrying the passengers.
"If the U.S. is going to make a long-term commitment to high-speed rail, they're going to need someone to build the cars," she told The Associated Press in a phone call after the White House meeting ended in Washington. "I really wanted to put in a plug ... for us to make the cars."
Granholm said a high-speed rail corridor linking Detroit and Pontiac to Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Wis., and St. Louis will create jobs and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. Nine Midwestern states have had a high-speed rail project on the drawing board for the past decade, but never had the money to get it done.
The first phase of the proposal connecting the two Michigan cities to Chicago stands a good chance of winning approval when U.S. Department of Transportation starts awarding competitive grant money in September, she said.
"Because the engineering work has all been done, it ... puts us in a good position to be able to get some of that first funding," she said. "But I'm sure other regions are vying just as aggressively."
The administration of President Barack Obama plans to spend $13 billion, including $8 billion from the Recovery Act, to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system. Governors from about half a dozen states attended Wednesday's meeting. Projects in the east and west also are applying for the money.
The trains would travel up to 110 mph on upgraded rail lines separate from those used by freight trains. Amtrak trains now often have to yield to freight trains sharing the same rails, slowing service.
Even though Michigan is known as the nation's car capital, Granholm said she thinks high-speed rail would be popular with state residents.
"If people could get to Chicago in a couple of hours ... (on trains) that are clean and are high-tech, it would be very inviting," she said.
Biden, who regularly rode the train from his home state of Delaware to Washington while he was a U.S. senator, said in a statement that the federal money will help the nation "start building a high-speed rail system that will lessen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways, and make travel in this country leaner, meaner and a whole lot cleaner."
Also attending Wednesday's meeting were Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.
Transportation officials from California, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Rhode Island and West Virginia also attended the meeting.