Florida’s loss has become New York’s gains. When the Sunshine State’s Governor Rick Scott declined $2 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail, northern leaders leapt at the opportunity to secure the money, and today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that $785 million of Florida’s spoils will be distributed to Northeast Corridor projects and another $150 million will fund non-Northeast Corridor improvements. This funding will help lay the groundwork for high-speed rail through the region.
“President Obama and Vice President Biden’s vision for a national rail system will help ensure America is equipped to win the future with the fastest, safest and most efficient transportation network in the world,” LaHood said at a presser this morning. “The investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities.”
As part of the morning’s announcement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined what New York plans to do with its $354.4 million. As part of the Northeast Corridor upgrades, $295 million to fund a project to replace the Harold Interlocking in Queens. Doing so will alleviate major delays as LIRR and Amtrak trains coming into and out of Manhattan compete for space. A new interlocking system will allow Amtrak trains to bypass what the feds called “the busiest passenger rail junction in the nation.” The $295 million represents the entire amount requested by the MTA for this project.
The remaining $59.4 million will go toward Empire Corridor Capacity improvements and a new intermodal station in Rochester. The state planes to construct a fourth station track at Albany/Rensselaer and replace the Schenctady station as well. By eliminating these bottlenecks, the state can set the stage for high-speed rail.
“New York stands ready to use this federal money to rebuild our transportation infrastructure, expand high speed rail, and put New Yorkers back to work. In April I applied for federal grant money to fund promising projects that would push New York’s high-speed rail plans forward and create jobs,” the governor said in a statement. “Today, the US Department of Transportation awarded New York $354.4 million for three projects. These initiatives have tremendous potential and will be a significant factor in ushering our economy and transportation system into the 21st century.”
Of course, despite these grant awards, one key aspect of the northeast high-speed rail plan is lacking. None of these awards will go toward constructing a new trans-Hudson tunnel, and the fact was not lost upon New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Prior to the press event this morning, he was caught on tape saying how Xanadu dollars should have gone to the ARC Tunnel but was thrilled by the federal grants anyway. “If you want to award hundreds of millions of dollars for high-speed rail,” said New York’s senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, “you need not ask New York twice.”
For more on the grants, check out the following: Gateway Gab breaks down how the remaining Northeast Corridor dollars will be spent while the DOT press release lists the other grant awards California and the Midwest will gain the bulk of the remainder of the federal funds that Florida gave up earlier this year. Ever so slowly, high-speed rail is coming into view.