WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has secured promises from European and Japanese companies that they will create jobs in the U.S. if they win a slice of the president's $8 billion high-speed rail program.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he plans to announce at a round-table Friday with rail manufacturers and suppliers that 30 foreign and domestic companies have promised to establish or expand operations in the United States if they are chosen to build high-speed lines.
The commitments will ensure the rail program will create jobs in the U.S. and boost domestic manufacturing, LaHood said in a statement.
"We know these are tough economic times for many folks and we believe that U.S. rail manufacturers and suppliers will benefit greatly from this new program," the secretary said. "We also look forward to establishing joint ventures with foreign firms who can provide expertise and establish or expand their operations here in the U.S."
The Federal Railroad Administration has received applications from 24 states seeking $50 billion for high-speed rail projects, more than six times the money designated under the economic recovery program. The agency plans to announce next month which projects will receive funds.
Most of the world's largest and most experienced rail engineering, construction and manufacturing firms are based outside the United States. Europe and Japan have extensive high-speed rail systems and well-developed industries to support them, giving them a leg up on potential U.S. competitors.
The only truly high-speed rail service in the U.S. is Amtrak's Acela Express, which operates between Washington and Boston. The trains can reach speeds of 150 mph, but average less than 100 mph. Some trains in Europe and Asia reach speeds over 200 mph and average 150 mph or more.
Foreign firms have been avidly pitching their expertise to states which have applied for funds, trade missions have crisscrossed the country and LaHood has met with a raft of ambassadors and transportation ministers.
Among the companies and their domestic subsidiaries the Transportation Department said have committed to created or expanding operations in the U.S. if they win rail contracts are Bombardier of Canada, ALSTOM of France, TALGO of Spain, Siemens of Germany, Hyundai Rotem of South Korea and and Kawasaki Rail Car of Japan.