It was announced today that the money set aside for the Florida’s rejected high speed rail line has been split up between a number of different projects around the country. The largest chunk the cash, $795 million, is going toward the rather congested and overcrowded Washington DC – New York – Boston corridor, which will make track improvements allowing trains to run at speeds up to 160 miles per hour. Nearly half of the money going to the Northeast corridor was awarded to New York State. Another huge chunk — about $300 million — is headed out west to the real high speed rail that will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles at up to 220 miles per hour.
Most of the funds are directed toward making track improvements that will allow trains to run faster on existing tracks — the Washington DC to Boston and Chicago to Detroit corridors will benefit from these types of upgrades. New York State will use its allotted $350 million to speed trains in and out of Penn Station and unclog the “Harold Interlocking” in Queens, where Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, and NJTransit are forced to share tracks.
Some transportation persons, however, think that the cash division has overlooked some very important and out of date bottlenecks that are in desperate need of assistance. Two such examples are the 100 year-old Portal Bridge in New Jersey and the two overworked tunnels under the Hudson river between New York City and New Jersey — those were scrapped by NJ Governor Chris Christie last year due to his worry that it would cost Jersey taxpayers too much.
Some hefty improvements are headed toward the Long Island Rail Road — the most used commuter rail system in the country — which is in desperate need of help after some recent mishaps have called attention to the ancient technology still being used there. Most of the improvements, though, are focused on longer sections of rails where upgrades could help increase train traffic.
“We must take our passengers off the short-run airplanes,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat. “No one in a properly functioning transportation environment should take a plane from New York to Washington, or for that matter from Boston to Washington.”
Let’s hope this infusion of cash is the first in a long line of improvements to our rail system – with trains in China about to start running at 310 mph, our meek 160 mph is way behind.