Demand for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants for high-speed rail far outstrips the $8 billion available. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration reported on July 16 that it had received 278 "pre-applications" for the rail grants, with applicants requesting a total of $102 billion. The department expects to award the first batch of economic-stimulus rail grants in the fall.

In another sign of the red-hot interest in the fast trains, the House Appropriations Committee on July 17 included $4 billion for high-speed rail in its fiscal 2010 transportation spending bill. That quadruples the amount President Obama requested. The regular 2010 appropriations would supplement the ARRA's $8 billion.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood says that foreign companies already are seeking to play a part in the program.

In all, DOT said, 40 states and the District of Columbia applied. The department also says that the West showed the greatest interest, with 108 applications requesting $38 billion. There were 79 applications, seeking $35 billion. In addition, 47 pre-applications came in from the Midwest, requesting a total of $13 billion; and 44 from the South-Southeast region, totaling $16 billion.