After months of heated debate and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, the US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the release of $450 million in federal funds to upgrade the rail electrical systems and tracks along the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak will receive the $450 million, and an additional $295 million will go to the New York State Department of Transportation for improvements on the Harold Interlocking rail junction in Queens.
“These grants are a win for our economy and a win for commuters all along the Northeast Corridor,” said Secretary LaHood in a statement. “We are creating new construction jobs, ordering American-made supplies and improving transportation opportunities across a region where 50 million Americans live and work.”
A recent study showed that the Northeast Corridor — one of the busiest in the country — would be most suited for high speed rail. The study also shows that a rail going along Boston to Washington, D.C. with stops in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore as the most worthwhile and cost effective. For example, rails from New York to Philadelphia and New York to Albany are about 150 miles long, which makes the construction cheaper than some of the other rail projects across the country, such as a rail going from Orlando to Tampa.
The money was originally rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott, and later split between a number of other states who had similar high speed rail projects. $795 million — the largest chunk of the cash — was sent towards the Washington DC – New York – Boston corridor. The improvements will now allow trains to run at speeds up to 160 miles per hour.
Back in June, Republican congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey also sought to prevent funds from being used in the state. He proposed instead diverting the funds for the flood relief efforts in the Midwest. New Jersey’s senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, however, intervened, writing a letter to LaHood “urging him to release the money so work on the high-speed rail project could move forward.”
“It is great news for New Jersey that this funding has been saved from Republicans’ chopping block and awarded to Amtrak. Rail service is the lifeblood of our state’s economy and it is our responsibility to protect and strengthen it for our commuters,” said Senator Lautenberg in a press release. “This federal funding will significantly upgrade the rail lines for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak commuters, reduce delays that plague the Northeast Corridor and make our state home to the fastest stretch of high speed rail in the country.”
With rail improvements soon to be underway, this is an exciting new prospect for infrastructure development in New York and the rest of the Northeast. Hopefully, the U.S. will one day be able to catch up with Japan’s high speed rail system.