By Rebecca Henely
At a fund-raiser in a Sunnyside restaurant Monday, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) announced the state had secured a nearly $295 million grant to improve part of the Sunnyside Yards and ready the system for high-speed rail.
“New York is going to put high-speed rail on the map,” Maloney predicted at Dazies Restaurant, at 39-41 Queens Blvd.
The congresswoman, who was fresh from a trip to Iraq where she met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, had the support of about 60 people, from electeds to civic activists to old friends at the dinner. After saying she believed troops could be out of Iraq by 2013, Maloney touted the grant for the Sunnyside Yards, which run near the south side of Northern Boulevard and Jackson Avenue in the neighborhood.
This grant, made up of federal monies from the U.S. Department of Transportation, would improve the Harold Interlocking” at the yards. The rail switching center is used by three separate railroads — the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit — which altogether send 783 trains moving through the interlocking every day, making it the busiest in North America.
The renovation would mean Amtrak could access the interlocking without delays or bottlenecksï»¿, allowing trains to travel more quickly to and from Boston as well as preparing the system for high-speed rail.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder had applied for the $294.7 million grant in April, and Maloney later wrote a letter to U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in support of it. In the letter, Maloney said the full project would cost $368.4 million, with the MTA providing 20 percent of the funding for the local match.
“I love infrastructure dollars because it’s an investment in the future and because it creates new jobs, union jobs,” Maloney said.
Maloney said the improvements would complement the $2 billion ï»¿secured for the East Side Access Project, which will bring the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal, and the $54 million for renovations at Queens Plaza.
She also touted the work she has been doing in Congress, such as the 2009 passage of the Credit Card Holder’s Bill of Rights, and protecting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was enacted under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and which some Republicans in Congress wish to see reworked.
“She’s a real leader in Washington who has proven again and again that she can bring significant resources back home to Queens,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said at the dinner.
Borough President Helen Marshall introduced Maloney at Dazies.
“She’s doing so much for our borough and so much for our country,” Marshall said.
Former Forest Hills Councilman Morton Povman said he had been close friends with Maloney ever since he had visited Israel with her while they were both on the Council.
“She’s a wonderful person,” Povman said. “Great congresswoman.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.