By Philip Newman
The federal government has handed out $2 billion with nearly $300 million designated to clear the way for high-speed Amtrak trains through a switching bottleneck in Sunnyside.
Speaking at Penn Station Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the cash infusions, which included more than $2 million rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott for a proposed high-speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando.
LaHood said $795 million would go toward upgrading tracks and other facilities in establishing high-speed rail lines along the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Officials said the upgrades would enable some trains reach 160 mph.
“Florida’s loss is New York’s and New Jersey’s gain,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had campaigned for the money Florida turned down.
New York state will get $354 million.
“High-speed rail will create thousands of quality, middle-class, manufacturing construction jobs right away,” LaHood said. “We have already made $11 million worth of investments, thanks to President Obama and Vice President Biden’s vision. Eleven billion already invested, that’s 11 billion times more than has ever been invested in high-speed rail in America.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) hailed the announcement. She said the Harold Interlocking, the busiest rail switching center in North America with 783 trains passing through daily, “is a bottleneck that has bedeviled New York train passengers for years.”
The facility, in the Sunnyside Yard in Maloney’s congressional district, has delayed movement of Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit.
The project will provide separate tracks to bypass Harold Interlocking, allowing Amtrak trains a faster route through New York City.
“This project is shovel-ready,” Maloney said.
The money will also help improve service in New York state, including upgrades to tracks, signals and a new station in upstate Rochester.
As to high-speed rail, Maloney said, “We’re behind the rest of the world.”
Fifteen stations will benefit from the federal grant.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 718-260-4536.