Tuesday, March 15, 2011
LaHood designates NEC as 11th HSR corridor; Amtrak now can directly apply for HSR funds
Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood designated the Northeast Corridor (NEC) as the 11th and final high-speed rail corridor. The designation includes the existing NEC main rail line, as well as any alternative routings for rail service between the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.
The designation ensures that states in the NEC will be eligible to apply for funding from existing federal high-speed and intercity passenger-rail programs, LaHood wrote in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
“The designation as a high-speed rail corridor will provide new avenues for funding to improve railway infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor, which includes the most densely populated area of the United States,” he wrote.
The designation will enable Amtrak, which owns the NEC, to apply for high-speed rail grant funding, including the $2.4 billion that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has rejected. Previously, only Northeast states could apply for projects on the NEC because the corridor had not been officially designated.
“Permitting Amtrak to apply will allow projects that connect the entire Northeast Corridor to be considered for funding and will bring Amtrak’s extensive knowledge of the operations and maintenance of the Northeast Corridor into the grant process,” according to a press release issued today by Lautenberg.
Sens. Lautenberg, Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.) have contacted LaHood to tell them they believe the USDOT should redirect Florida’s funds to their states.
“Given the Northeast Corridor's strong track record with high-speed rail and the region's high gross domestic product, improvements to the Corridor's rail service would be a smart investment of Florida's rejected high-speed rail funds,” the senators said in a statement. “We believe that Secretary LaHood's recent decisions are a positive step that will encourage further higher speed rail development along the Northeast Corridor. We will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that the Corridor receives its fair share of the available high-speed rail funds.”
Federal surface transportation legislation has authorized the U.S. Department of Transportation to authorize up to 11 corridors for high-speed rail designation. Since the early 1990s, USDOT had designated 10 corridors, including the Northeast’s Empire Corridor and Northern New England Corridor.