The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded nearly $745 million in grants to upgrade some of the most heavily used sections of the Northeast Corridor rail system.
Nearly $450 million will go toward upgrading electrical systems and tracks between Trenton, N.J., and New York City, "resulting in improved on-time performance and reliability, and an initial increase in top operating speeds up to 160 mph and future maximum speeds of 186 mph," according to the department.
Another $294.78 million will go toward creating new routes for trains coming in and out of Manhattan, allowing Amtrak trains to bypass the busiest passenger rail junction in the nation, according to DOT.
The department said the improvements will enable "the fastest passenger-train speeds attained in North America to date."
With the upgrades, Amtrak Acela Express trains will reach up to 160 mph (up from 135 mph today) along a 24-mile segment of the corridor between Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., according to DOT. The upgrades on that section will include replacement of electrical catenary, supplemented power supply and modernized signals and tracks.
"In the future, as Amtrak purchases new, next-generation high-speed train sets, passengers will travel at world-class speeds of 186 mph along the improved track," DOT said in a news release.
Improvements to the Harold Interlocking rail junction in Queens will eliminate congestion between intercity and commuter trains and allow for the future growth of high-speed service along the corridor, according to the department.
A new flyover will separate Amtrak trains traveling between New York and Boston from Long Island Railroad and Metro-North commuter trains, and N.J. Transit trains accessing Sunnyside Maintenance Yard in Queens.
Both projects are expected to generate 12,000 jobs.
Pre-construction work between Trenton and New York City will begin in late 2011, with initial construction starting in 2012. The project is expected to create 400 jobs per year over the period of construction.
"Through the Obama Administration's strict implementation of the 'Buy America' requirement, the opportunity for U.S. manufacturers and suppliers continues as more than 100 miles of wire, hundreds of catenary poles, and a large volume of electrical equipment such as transformers will be used as part of the upgrades," DOT said in a news release.
Construction on Harold Interlocking will begin in September 2012, creating 9,200 jobs over the length of the project, and include the procurement of new switches, miles of track, concrete ties, bridges, signal towers, catenary poles and retaining walls.
Rail Projects Underway in 32 States
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and annual appropriations have provided $10.1 billion to expand passenger-rail service and improve the reliability, speed and frequency of existing service, according to DOT. Of that, more than $7.3 billion has been obligated to date.
High-speed rail projects are underway in 32 states, according to DOT.
"With gas prices on the rise and congestion clogging our roads, more and more Americans are choosing to travel by train," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.
"With our population expected to grow by 100 million more people between now and 2050, we are investing in a high-speed rail system that connects to other modes of transportation, reduces congestion and improves the efficiency and reliability of travel in America. Increasing speeds and improving service on the Northeast Corridor, which is the most heavily-traveled passenger rail corridor in the nation, is a crucial part of our effort."