DOT Awards $2 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds

Florida passed, so Northeast, Midwest, California receive money

Three months after Florida Gov. Rick Scott spurned the Obama administration's offer of $2 billion to fund a Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail system, the Federal Railroad Administration has awarded the money to states in the Northeast and Midwest and California.

The agency selected 15 states and Amtrak to receive $2.02 billion for 22 high-speed intercity passenger rail projects.

The funding is part of President Obama's six-year, $53 billion plan to help create a nationwide high-speed network that will connect 80% of Americans in 25 years.

"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," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "The investments we're making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities."

The funds include $795 million to upgrade the most heavily used sections of the Northeast Corridor, which, the Obama administration says, will increase speeds from 135 to 160 miles per hour on critical segments, improve on-time performance and add more seats for passengers.

Another $404.1 million will go toward expanding high-speed rail service in the Midwest, including construction of new segments between Detroit and Chicago and upgrades to the Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor.

Also included is $300 million to continue work on California's 220-mph high-speed rail system, the first in the nation. The funding will go toward extending the current 110-mile segment by 20 miles to advance completion of the Central Valley project, part of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco corridor.

Another $336.2 million will go toward the purchase of next-generation locomotives and rail cars for California and the Midwest.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott rebuffed the Obama administration's offer of more than $2 billion in high-speed rail funds in February, asserting that revenue projections for such projects are "historically overly optimistic" and that state taxpayers likely would have to subsidize the rail line. Scott, a Republican, also argued that cost overruns are common in high-speed rail projects.

Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted nearly 100 applications in hopes of receiving the funds that Florida rejected, according to the Transportation Department.

Project Highlights

According to the Department of Transportation, the project highlights include:

Northeast Corridor (NEC)

  • Amtrak (NEC power, signal, track, catenary improvements) -- $450 million to boost capacity, reliability and speed in one of the most heavily traveled sections of the Northeast Corridor, creating a 24-mile segment of track capable of supporting train speeds up to 160 mph.
  • Maryland (NEC bridge replacement) -- $22 million for engineering and environmental work to replace the century-old Susquehanna River Bridge, which currently causes frequent delays for commuters due to the high volume of critical maintenance.
  • New York (NEC Harold interlocking Amtrak bypass routes) -- $295 million to alleviate major delays for trains coming in and out of Manhattan with new routes that allow Amtrak trains to bypass the busiest passenger rail junction in the nation.
  • Rhode Island (NEC Kingston track, platform improvements) -- $25 million for design and construction of an additional 1.5 miles of third track in Kingston, R.I., so high-speed trains operating at speeds up to 150 mph can pass trains on a high-volume section of the Northeast Corridor.
  • Rhode Island (NEC Providence station improvements) -- $3 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work to renovate the Providence station.
Northeastern Region
  • Connecticut (New Haven-to-Springfield track construction) -- $30 million to complete double-track segments on the corridor, bringing added intercity rail service to a route that plays an important role in the region, connecting communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts to the NEC, as well as Vermont.
  • Massachusetts/Maine (Downeaster track improvements) -- $20.8 million to construct a 10.4-mile section of double track between Wilmington and Andover, Mass.
  • New York (Empire Corridor capacity improvements) -- $58 million to construct upgrades to tracks, stations and signals, improving rail operations along the Empire Corridor. This includes replacement of the Schenectady station and construction of a fourth station track at the Albany-Rensselaer station, one of the corridor's most significant bottlenecks.
  • New York (Rochester station and track improvements) -- $1.4 million for a preliminary engineering and environmental analysis for a new Rochester intermodal station on the Empire Corridor, connecting passengers with additional transit and pedestrian options.
  • Pennsylvania (Keystone Corridor interlocking improvements) -- $40 million to rebuild an interlocking near Harrisburg on the Keystone Corridor, saving travelers time and improving passenger train schedule reliability.
Next-Generation Passenger-Rail Equipment Purchase
  • Midwest corridors -- $268.2 million to purchase 48 high-performance passenger rail cars and seven quick-acceleration locomotives for eight corridors in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri.
  • California corridors -- $68 million to acquire 15 high-performance passenger rail cars and four quick-acceleration locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol corridors in California.
Midwestern Region
  • Illinois (Chicago-to-St. Louis Corridor) -- $186.3 million to construct upgrades on the Chicago-to-St. Louis Corridor between Dwight and Joliet, Ill., with trains operating at 110 mph for more than 220 miles of track.
  • Michigan (Kalamazoo-Dearborn service development) -- $196.5 million to rehabilitate track and signal systems, bringing trains up to speeds of 110 mph on a 235-mile section of the Chicago-to-Detroit corridor, reducing trip times by 30 minutes.
  • Michigan (Ann Arbor Station project) -- $2.8 million for an engineering and environmental analysis to construct a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor, Mich., that will better serve passengers and allow more than one train to serve the station simultaneously.
  • Minnesota (Northern Lights Express) -- $5 million to complete engineering and environmental work for establishing the Northern Lights Express -- a high-speed intercity passenger service -- connecting Minneapolis to Duluth, with 110-mph high-speed rail service.
  • Missouri (Merchant's Bridge replacement) -- $13.5 million to advance the design of a new bridge over the Mississippi River on the Chicago-to-St. Louis Corridor, replacing a bridge built in the 1890s.
Southern Region
  • North Carolina (Charlotte-to-Richmond service enhancement) -- $4 million for environmental analysis on the Richmond-to-Raleigh section of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor.
  • Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston Core Express Service) -- $15 million for engineering and environmental work to develop a high-speed rail corridor linking two of the largest metro areas in the United States, Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston.
California and Northwest Region
  • California (Central Valley construction project extension) -- $300 million for a 20-mile extension along the Central Valley Corridor. The work funded in this round will extend the track and civil work from Fresno to the "Wye" junction, which will provide a connection to San Jose to the west and Merced to the north.
  • Oregon (Eugene Station stub tracks) -- $1.5 million for analysis of overnight parking tracks for passenger trains on the southern end of the Pacific Northwest Corridor, adding new capacity for increased passenger and freight rail service.
  • Washington (Port of Vancouver grade separation) -- $15 million to eliminate a congested intersection and bottleneck between freight and passenger tracks.
Is President Obama on the right track with his high-speed rail plan? Voice your opinion in IndustryWeek's "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" forum, which is dedicated to topics related to automotive, aerospace, maritime and rail manufacturing.
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