(Photo: (cc) Flickr user JPMueller99)
Months of political wrangling came to an end today, when US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the release of nearly $450 million to upgrade rail electrical systems and tracks between Trenton, New Jersey and New York City.
(Update, 5:12 pm: Amtrak is the recipient of the $450 million. An additional $295 million is going to the New York State DOT to improve the Harold Interlocking rail junction in Queens, where a new flyover will separate Amtrak trains traveling between New York and Boston from Long Island Railroad and Metro-North commuter trains, and NJ Transit trains accessing Sunnyside Maintenance Yard.)
“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.”
The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger rail line in the country. Pre-construction work on the upgrade is expected to begin later this year.
The money -- which had been initially rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott -- was obligated to the Northeast Corridor in May. But in June Republican congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represents New Jersey, proposed diverting the money away from the Northeast toward flood-ravaged states in the Midwest. This spurred New Jersey's senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, to write Ray LaHood a letter, urging him to release the money so work on the high-speed rail project could move forward.
Senator Lautenberg expressed relief in a press release. “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,” he said. “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.”
And rail delays seem particularly prevalent this summer. A derailment disrupted service on NJ Transit earlier this month (and renewed sniping over the canceled ARC tunnel), and in June, power problems hobbled service on both NJ Transit and Amtrak for three consecutive days.