Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced an additional $2 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding, bringing the total awards for the program to $10.1 billion. USDOT distributed the $2 billion to 22 projects in 15 states, but three big winners together received over $1.8 billion or about 90 percent of the additional money.
We said we will roll out our view of the big winners on three successive days, in reverse order. On Monday, we explained why we think California is the third biggest winner in this latest round of funding. Yesterday, we outlined the package of funded projects that make the Midwest region the second biggest winner.
Today, we tell you why we think the biggest winner of all in the latest round is the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington, DC, to Boston, including stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Providence. All together, USDOT awarded $795 million to the projects on the Northeast Corridor, including $450 million for power, track, and signal improvements on a 24-mile stretch between New Brunswick and Trenton, NJ; $295 million to unsnarl an interlocking in Queens, NY; and a total of $50 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work for a bridge replacement on the Susquehanna River and station improvements in Kingston and Providence, RI.
The $450 million awarded to Amtrak for the New Brunswick to Trenton corridor project will boost capacity, reliability, and speed in this heavily-used segment of the Northeast Corridor by adding high-tension catenary, upgraded power facilities, and high-speed interlockings. The award also will fund track and interlocking upgrades between Morrisville, PA, and Trenton and at New York Penn Station.
The $295 million awarded to New York DOT will pay for new routings through Harold Interlocking in Queens, NY, one of the busiest passenger rail interlockings in the nation, allowing Amtrak through trains to/from New York or Boston to bypass the interlocking. The project also will improve access to nearby Sunnyside Yard.
In March, Secretary LaHood designated the Northeast Corridor as a federally-recognized high-speed rail corridor, making Amtrak eligible to compete for this round of funding awards. Several Democratic senators from Northeast Corridor states praised this designation and issued a statement applauding Monday’s awards.
Not all influential elected officials were as sanguine. House T&I Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), a strong supporter of improved passenger service on the Northeast Corridor, issued a statement on the announced awards: . . . with Amtrak’s plan to spend $117 billion over the next 30 years, the Administration continues to take a piecemeal approach to improving the NEC. We need a comprehensive, responsible plan for the Northeast Corridor, and Amtrak – our nation’s Soviet-style passenger rail service – is incapable of carrying out a project of this scope and significance. We need to bring in the private sector to finance, design, build, operate and maintain true high-speed service in the Northeast Corridor if we are going to have any chance of success.
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