Home High-Speed Rail Florida’s rejected HSR dollars come to New York

Florida’s rejected HSR dollars come to New York

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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Donald May 9, 2011 - 7:14 pm

WHhere is the most dangerous place in America on Sunday morning? The space between Schumer and a television camera.

Christopher Stephens May 9, 2011 - 7:45 pm

Was waiting for the ARC reference… and there it is!

But in all seriousness, I think reallocating funds from Florida, etc., to the NE Corridor is a good thing for everyone involved. The project in Florida didn’t make much sense and was clearly a way for the Obama administration to buy votes. It didn’t work. Spending more money on the NE Corridor (and CA) doesn’t generate as much political capital for the president, but it does make for a more viable, sensible project. The case for HSR is much stronger in the northeast than it is in Florida (or Wisconsin, another battleground state). In a world with limited resources, why not spend the money where it will do the most good?

Christopher May 9, 2011 - 8:07 pm

Well here’s the thing besides votes … and I hear this all the time from family in the midwest and the Southeast … they are feeling ever more dependent on automobiles as airlines are increasing dropping flights to smaller and midsized cities. It costs a small fortune to fly to see my parents in Knoxville or my relatives in Des Moines and Minneapolis.

HSR has long been pushed by midwestern states to reconnect their mid-sized cities with larger hubs and thus transportation outside of the region. Right now those trips to Chicago and Atlanta for flights are too often done by automobile. That doesn’t make much sense.

Now admittedly HSR is probably better to start in the NE and California, but our middle regions need a solution too to how transportation has changed in the last 60 years in those places. Or we’re going to have lot more cars on the road.

SEAN May 9, 2011 - 8:26 pm

Or we’re going to have lot more cars on the road.

Did you ask yourself is that the goal? I mean by reducing flight capasity & not having HSR you become more dependent on an option that is becomeing more & more expencive each year.

Christopher Stephens May 9, 2011 - 8:54 pm

I could be wrong, but hasn’t it _always_ been expensive to travel long distances between urban areas in the heartland? I, too, have friends in Des Moines and Knoxville, and I see them less often than I would like, but I don’t see subsidizing HSR in those areas as the best choice in the near future. Yes, road and air travel are subsidized in their own ways, but the cost of subsidizing HSR in these less densely settled areas would be even more crippling. Let HSR thrive along the routes with the highest demand, and then let’s think about putting it elsewhere. Even in Europe they started on a few, heavily traveled corridors before building out the system.

Bolwerk May 10, 2011 - 2:02 am

Probably. Of course, the feds have been spending probably trillions$ at this point to encourage people to move to those places, and then subsidizing roads and flights to them.

al May 9, 2011 - 10:36 pm

There are quality budget bus services like Bolt Bus and Megabus popping up.

matt May 9, 2011 - 11:21 pm

i was just about to say the same thing al

SEAN May 9, 2011 - 8:12 pm

Someone should send Rick Scott a fruit basket with a note saying thanks for the money you rejected. We’ll put the money to good use here along the NEC.

Ray May 9, 2011 - 8:50 pm

Anyone know where the 24 mile segment is along the NE Corridor (btwn Philadelphia and New York) that’s the recipient of the $450MM/160mph upgrade?

And a follow up.. what does $18.75MM per mile buy?

Alon Levy May 9, 2011 - 9:54 pm

New Brunswick to Morrisville. Amtrak claims it will upgrade the tracks, signaling, and catenary. In reality, doing all of the above costs much less than $18.75 million/mile when the tracks and ROW are in place, and until recently Amtrak had said replacing the catenary, which is the only thing limiting speed in that area, would cost $1 billion for the entire NY-DC stretch.

Ray May 10, 2011 - 5:22 am

Thanks. What should it cost per mile? Why are these projects not held to international standards?

Bolwerk May 10, 2011 - 1:23 pm

I seem to recall the Swedes(?) building something with Acela speeds for around $10M/mile. This was new ROW too. With existing ROW, I would guess any track/capital you don’t want has a salvage value, so I don’t see why the price shouldn’t be lower.

In Amtrak’s case, I thought it was simply a matter of installing constant-tension catenary on track stretches between Newark and Trenton(?), but I have no idea how much that should cost – though $18.75 sounds extremely steep.

Alon Levy May 10, 2011 - 5:42 pm

Electrification should be about $3 million per mile, based on the cost of the NEC electrification in the 1990s and on the costs of a more recent project in Scotland. Reelectrification should be the same, since it consists of new catenary and maybe new transformers if the voltage changes, which is the same as or a little less than what’s necessary for greenfield electrification.

Frank B. May 9, 2011 - 9:35 pm

Hey Florida!

Thanks for the Money and the Jobs!

-Governor Cuomo.

Pete May 9, 2011 - 10:09 pm

Any chance Arc Money will be re-allocated in the same way?

Would be great to see more money come to NYC 2nd avenue subway.

Also, do you guys have any idea what they plan on replacing the harold interlock with?

Pete May 9, 2011 - 10:13 pm

Oh yea and having some Arc Money for the 10th Avenue Shell on the 7 Line seems more possible now with how la hood distributed the money.

Justin May 10, 2011 - 4:00 am

LaHood did say the ARC money will be redistributed…………

Al D May 10, 2011 - 8:51 am

If he ever gets it back from NJ!

Alon Levy May 9, 2011 - 11:06 pm

They’re planning to grade-separate the junction.

Alon Levy May 9, 2011 - 10:37 pm

I wanted to write the same comment I’d written on 2 different blogs explaining why the interlocking replacement is completely unnecessary, but instead I wrote it in a blog post. This may or may not turn into regular blogging.

Lawrence Velázquez May 10, 2011 - 1:49 pm

This just seems silly, then. The flat junction is of no consequence, and Amtrak and LIRR service is still going to have to merge somewhere.

Eric F. May 10, 2011 - 8:36 am

Allocate “Xanadu dollars”? Is that even coherent? Is that an ARC reference? Xanadu itself is getting a state boost through earmarked project-generated sales tax money, which has nothing to do with a rail tunnel, and in any case is a revenue stream that could barely fund the paperclips and staples that will go into ARC planning.

I think y’all missed the real story here anyway. This is a requiem for HSR, not “setting the stage” for HSR. This is breaking up a true HSR project into small improvements on existing rail.

Finally, that full slug of money would have been needed to replace the Portal Bridge, which would have been a better use of the money.

Dan G May 11, 2011 - 12:54 am

New Portal Bridge aside, improving what we have arguably might be a better idea for the time being.

Alon Levy May 11, 2011 - 1:14 am

Sure, but not when the NEC spending in question is an interlocking fix that doesn’t solve any present or near-future problem and a top speed upgrade that saves Amtrak less than 2 minutes.

The federal rail debate as seen through Gov. Christie :: Second Ave. Sagas May 11, 2011 - 4:55 pm

[…] northeastern politicians gathered at Penn Station on Monday to accept Florida’s high-speed rail dollars, a handful of New Jersey’s representatives to Washington, D.C. made their appearances while […]

Dan G May 11, 2011 - 9:53 pm

Yeah, it seems like the NEC has some things which could use more immediate attention, seeing as a lot of work still needs to be done before speed/time on the NEC is so much better that it generates any significant increase in economic impact.

But to be fair, I am guessing that the allocations are to projects that can begin much sooner than those which were rejected.


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