Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Milwaukee High Speed Rail Announcement Press Conference

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Thank you - it's an honor to be here. And I want to thank Transportation Undersecretary Keintz for joining me.

Many of you probably heard President Obama last night in his State of the Union address announce $8 billion in Recovery Act funding to create America's first nationwide program of high-speed and intercity passenger rail service.

Today it's my great pleasure to be here on behalf of my good friend, Transportation Secretary LaHood, to announce nearly $800 million of that funding for a corridor that would improve service between Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

These funds are part of a long-term venture, on the scale of the Interstate Highway System, to build an expansive, safe and energy-efficient rail transportation network that improves passenger rail service, better serves Americans across the country and makes rail a viable transportation alternative.

When President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law nearly a year ago, it was designed to do three things: help those harmed by the economic crisis, aid in our recovery, and lay a new foundation to make America competitive in the 21st century economy.

The funds I'm announcing today will be used to do just that - bolstering service between Madison and Milwaukee, putting people to work today and reducing travel time in the months and years to come.

Now, some of you may be asking yourself: what is the nation's Housing Secretary doing in Milwaukee announcing railroad funding?

Well first, let me say that it's always great to be in Milwaukee - and that this has been a big year for HUD and the City, as we've awarded this community competitive funding to green public housing, provide comprehensive career training for unemployed residents to revitalize Milwaukee's urban core, and, just a few weeks ago, stabilize neighborhoods impacted by foreclosures.

To qualify for the latter, Milwaukee demonstrated how federal funds can be leveraged with investment and involvement from local foundations and other community stakeholders to turn vacant homes into affordable housing opportunities - raising neighboring property values and creating jobs for hardworking Wisconsin families.

But I'm here with Undersecretary Keintz in the Milwaukee Intermodal transit station today because you know as well as I do that when you choose a home, you don't just choose a home - you choose a community. In particular, you also choose transportation to work.

It's time the Federal government understood that as well. That is why we unveiled an unprecedented partnership last year between HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency to begin coordinating our agencies' investments.

The idea behind our partnership is simple: when we work together at the federal level, families benefit at the local level.

Well, in the coming days, HUD will be taking this partnership to the next level as we launch our Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to help communities like Milwaukee overlay and blend federal housing investments with transportation investments like this one - to achieve the biggest bang for the buck, connecting where we live to where we work.

And this high speed rail line will certainly do that, creating shorter travel times, more frequent trains, and more connections between urban centers and smaller communities as it helps to build the strong regional backbone Metropolitan Milwaukee needs to compete in the 21st century.

And with transit that connects this high speed rail investment to affordable housing, to retail businesses and job centers, to schools and parks, we can ensure that every resident in this community has access to and can benefit from this historic investment.

In the last year, I've been to 58 communities across this country - cities devastated by job loss, suburbs reeling from foreclosures, and rural towns and tribal villages removed from economic and educational opportunities.

The one thing that every one of these communities has in common is that they want a federal partner who listens - who responds to their needs and can help meet the demands of their markets.

Collectively, that is what these investments are about - that's the kind of partner we're committed to being. And that's why I'm honored to be announcing this funding today.

Thank you and congratulations.


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