April 24, 2014

Amtrak big winner in latest rail-grant release

WASHINGTON — Amtrak’s vision for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor gained a significant boost May 9 when the Federal Railroad Administration redistributed to Amtrak $795 million of some $2 billion in high-speed rail grants previously rejected by Florida.

Portions of that grant money also were distributed to 15 states that have plans for high-speed and higher-speed rail.

The funds come from unobligated amounts appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which has not been affected by recent congressional budget cuts. That law, intended to stimulate the economy at the depth of the current recession, provided some $10 billion for rail projects. Some $6 billion of that $10 billion has now been distributed.

Some of the funds directed to Amtrak May 9 are earmarked for 24 miles of Northeast Corridor track in central New Jersey — between New Brunswick and Morrisville — to be upgraded to handle 160-mph train operations. The current top speed over that segment is 135 mph via Amtrak’s Acela trains.

The Northeast Corridor connects Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Midwest states will receive $404 million to upgrade tracks between Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis for 110-mph passenger-train operations. Work already has begun — as part of a joint project among Union Pacific, Amtrak and the FRA — to upgrade tracks between Chicago and St. Louis to 110 mph for passenger-trains.

California will receive $300 million toward initial construction in the Central Valley of a planned high-speed line linking Sacramento, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Following is a breakdown of the grant allocations:

Northeast Corridor

  • $450 million to Amtrak to improve NEC track, and power, signal and catenary systems in one of the corridor’s most heavily traveled areas, creating a 24-mile segment of track that can handle 160 mph train operations.
  • $295 million to New York to build new routes that enable Amtrak trains to bypass the Harold Interlocking in Queens on Long Island — one of the country’s busiest passenger-rail junctions.
  • $25 million to Rhode Island to design and construct an additional 1.5 miles of third track in Kingston, enabling trains operating at speeds up to 150 mph to pass other trains on a high-volume section of the corridor.
  • $22 million to Maryland to conduct engineering and environmental work to replace the century-old Susquehanna River Bridge.
  • $3 million to Rhode Island to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental work to renovate the Providence Station.

Northeast Region

  • $58 million to New York to upgrade tracks, stations and signals along the Empire Corridor, including replacing the Schenectady Station and constructing a fourth station track at the Albany-Rensselaer Station.
  • $40 million to Pennsylvania to rebuild an interlocking near Harrisburg on the Keystone Corridor.
  • $30 million to Connecticut to build double-track segments between New Haven and Springfield.
  • $20.8 million to Maine and Massachusetts to construct a 10.4-mile section of double track between Wilmington and Andover, Mass., improving service along Amtrak’s Downeaster route.
  • $1.4 million to New York to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental reviews for a new Rochester intermodal station along the Empire Corridor.

Regional Equipment Pools

  • $268.2 million to Midwest states to purchase 48 high-performance passenger cars and seven quick-acceleration locomotives for eight corridors in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.
  • $68 million to California to acquire 15 high-performance passenger cars and four “uick-acceleration locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol corridors.

Midwestern Region

  • $196.5 million to Michigan to rehabilitate track and signal systems between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, bringing train speeds up to 110 mph along a 235-mile section of track.
  • $186.3 million to Illinois to construct track along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet to accommodate 110 mph trains.
  • $13.5 million to Missouri to advance design work to replace the Merchant’s Bridge over the Mississippi River along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.
  • $5 million to Minnesota to complete engineering and environmental work to establish the Northern Lights Express, which would connect Minneapolis and Duluth with 110 mph trains.
  • $2.8 million to Michigan to conduct an engineering and environmental analysis to construct a new station in Ann Arbor.

Southern Region

  • $15 million to Texas to conduct engineering and environmental work to develop a high-speed rail corridor linking Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.
  • $4 million to North Carolina to conduct an environmental analysis of the Richmond-Raleigh section of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corirdor.

California and the Northwest Region

  • $300 million to the California High Speed Rail Authority to extend construction on the Central Valley corridor by another 20 miles, from Fresno to the Wye junction, which will provide a connection to San Jose to the west and Merced to the north.
  • $15 million to Washington state to construct a Port of Vancouver grade separation, which will eliminate a congested intersection and bottleneck between freight and passenger tracks.
  • $1.5 million for analysis of overnight parking tracks for passenger trains on the southern end of the Pacific Northwest Corridor at the Port of Vancouver, adding new capacity for increased passenger and freight-rail service.
  • $15 million to eliminate a congested intersection and bottleneck between freight and passenger tracks along the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor at Eugene, Ore., by elevating one set of tracks over the other.