Historic Day for High-Speed Rail

Thursday, Jan. 28 could be the birth date for high-speed rail in America. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Bidden are announcing the award of $8 billion in federal stimulus funds to help make bullet trains a reality across the United States.

California is the top recipient of federal funds with the Anaheim to Los Angeles portion of the statewide system an early winner among the contested systems vying for the jobs-producing funds.

Our friends at the California High-Speed Rail Blog are reporting that the Golden State is receiving approximately $2.35 billion in federal passenger rail stimulus funds -- $2.25 billion of that goes directly to high-speed rail.

"California has made signicant investments in passenger rail that have led to remarkable ridership growth," a White House statement read. "Over 5.5 million people per year now ride on California’s three intercity corridors, making these routes the busiest in the U.S. after the Northeast Corridor."

Check out this great map from the TransportPolitic blog of the winners in the race for stimulus dollars. California -- winning one-quarter -- is clearly the victor. But others winners of American Recovery and Reinvestment Funds:

Florida -- $1.25 billion to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami.

Illinois-Missouri -- $1.1 billion to improve a rail line between Chicago and St. Louis so that trains travel up to 110 mph.

Wisconsin -- $810 million to upgrade and refurbish train stations and install safety equipment on the Madison-to-Milwaukee leg of a line that stretches from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Washington-Oregon -- $590 million to upgrade a rail line from Seattle to Portland

North Carolina -- $520 million for projects that will increase top speeds to 90 mph on trains between Raleigh and Charlotte and double the number of round trips.

Working on the Railroad to Enhance Safety

Constructions crews, orange vests and traffic cones are signs of the safety improvements coming to Orange County's rail crossings.

OCTA began the Orange County railroad crossing safety enhancement project in August 2009.

Construction crews have been working at railroad crossings in Orange, constructing new medians in the road to deter motorists from driving around lowered gates trying to beat trains.

Crews also are preparing each crossing for new pedestrian gates and railroad gate arms that will notify pedestrians when it is safe to cross the tracks.

Construction hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with night work occurring between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.

OCTA's railroad crossing safety enhancement project will enhance safety features at crossings throughout Orange County. For more transportation updates, visit OCTA's YouTube channel.Once the program is completed, participating cities along the entire rail corridor in Orange County will have the opportunity to implement a quiet zone in their communities. A quiet zone is an area along the tracks where trains do not routinely need to sound their horn.

Motorists and pedestrians can see the progress of construction work at the railroad crossings on La Veta Avenue, Palmyra Avenue, Almond Avenue, Chapman Avenue, Palm Avenue, Walnut Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, Meats Avenue, Batavia Street, Main Street and Eckhoff Street.

For up to date construction schedules and detour routes, visit the project Web site or follow the progress of the project on Twitter at @RailSafeSarah