USDOT Announces $120 Million in High Speed Rail Funds for Connecticut

    -Progressive Railroading

    The state of Connecticut will receive $120 million in federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) funding to complete construction on the Hartford segment of the New Haven, Conn., to Springfield, Mass., passenger-rail corridor, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced Monday.

    When the project is completed in 2016, 11 additional round-trip trains will travel between Hartford and New Haven, for a total of 17 trains compared to six today.

    Corridor improvements will reduce travel time between St. Albans, Vt., and New Haven, by more than one hour. The project involves installing 10 miles of double track, upgrading a signal system on a portion of the line and improving 28 grade crossings.

    In addition, 13 bridges and culverts will be repaired or replaced, and four Amtrak stations will receive new, high-level platforms with overhead pedestrian walkways and expanded parking areas for rail customers.

    Monday’s announcement follows two additional HSIPR grants totaling $70 million for the New Haven-to-Springfield line, which were awarded in 2011. In total, the federal government has invested $191 million in the the line; collectively, the state and federal governments will provide a total of $365 million to help reduce travel times, improve reliability and capacity, improve safety and renovate four Amtrak stations in Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin and Hartford, USDOT officials said.

    U.S. Department of Transportation Awards More than $74 Million to Further Development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor in Virginia

    -FRA

    Added Capacity Will Improve Passenger, Freight and Commuter Rail Service Between Virginia and Washington, D.C.

    WASHINGTON –U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today awarded more than $74.8 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia to continue development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor.  The funding will help improve passenger and freight rail service between Virginia and Washington, D.C. and reduce delays on the Virginia Rail Express (VRE) commuter service.

    “The Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor between Charlotte and Washington D.C. serves one of the fastest growing regions in the country, which is why it is critical to eliminate congestion points so that intercity passenger, freight and commuter rail can all run smoothly without delays,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This is a great example of how federal, state and local governments are working with rail carriers to build capacity and improve service for the public.”

    The project will build up to 11 miles of third track and related improvements from Arkendale in Stafford County to Powell’s Creek in Prince William County, Va. The third track will provide the capacity needed for higher speed trains on the Southeast Corridor to operate without conflict from freight and commuter trains.  On a daily basis, 40-50 freight trains, 10 Amtrak trains and 14 VRE trains operate over this segment, and the addition of a third track will allow for traffic to flow unimpeded.  In addition to adding a third track, the project includes final design and improvements to the station at the Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Va.

    “The Washington, D.C. area transportation system has been plagued with delays as population in the area has increased and more commodities flow through the region,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo.  “Reducing congestion and adding capacity are two key outcomes we and our state partners in Virginia planned for in making this investment.  Projects like this will make a real difference for passengers while maintaining our world class freight system.  We are building a rail infrastructure for an America built to last.”

    When completed, the Corridor will have have at least eight high-speed trains traveling at 110 mph between Charlotte, N.C. and Washington D.C.  Travel time between Charlotte and Washington D.C. will be reduced by up to three hours, and travel time between Richmond and Washington D.C will be reduced by 35 minutes.  The Southeast Corridor is one of five originally proposed high-speed passenger rail corridors designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1992. It is part of an overall plan to extend service from the existing high-speed rail on the Boston to Washington Northeast Corridor to points in the Southeast.  Future plans for the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor call for extending service from Charlotte to Atlanta.

    The Federal Railroad Administration and its 32 state partners are making great progress on High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail projects across the country. With $10.1 billion in federal funding, states are moving forward with 153 projects, laying the foundation for a 21st century passenger rail network.

    Feds OK Merced-Fresno Section of High Speed Rail

    -The Fresno Bee

    California’s controversial high-speed rail project received a boost Wednesday when the Federal Railroad Administration approved the proposed Merced-to-Fresno route, clearing the way for construction to begin in early 2013.

    A federal record of decision signed Tuesday by FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo represents the final bureaucratic hurdle for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The decision gives a federal blessing to the 60-mile route and to thousands of pages of environmental review for the project.

    Backers of the project hailed the decision as “historic” for the development of the first high-speed train project in the U.S. and the start of construction in the central San Joaquin Valley.

    “With the federal record of decision, we are now poised to move forward and break ground next year,” said Jeff Morales, the state rail authority’s CEO.

    But the spectre of lawsuits continues to hang over the project. Several suits have been filed against the state rail authority in hopes of stalling or stopping work on the Merced-Fresno section.

    The decision comes despite recent pleas from critics asking the FRA to withhold its approval based on concerns over “environmental justice” in the environmental review process, potentially in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

    Those concerns focused on the lack of many environmental documents not being made available in Spanish or other languages besides English for residents to read and fears that low-income and minority neighborhoods are at risk for greater effects from construction and operation of the train project.

    The state rail authority approved the Merced-Fresno route in May. Federal officials had to run the plans through additional channels, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, for review before they could issue their decision on the section.

    The FRA decision acknowledges that “communities of concern” including low-income and minority neighborhoods are likely to experience the greatest effects from noise and having to be relocated to make way for the tracks. But it adds that steps will be taken to reduce those effects so they “will not be appreciably more severe or greater in magnitude” than for the broader Valley population.

    Because minorities and low-income residents make up most of the region’s population, the decision adds, “benefits will likely accrue to a greater degree to communities of concern.” Those benefits include better transportation systems, reduced traffic congestion on freeways, improved air quality, and more jobs during construction and operation of the train system.

    “Over the next several years, this project will put thousands of Californians to work and provide the state with transportation capacity and connectivity needed for long-term economic expansion,” Szabo said.

     

    Richmond-Hampton Roads High Speed Rail Project Moves a Step Closer With Final Environmental Impact Statement Approval

    -FRA

    Newly identified preferred route connects to Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor

    WASHINGTON September 5, 2012- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and its state partner, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT), have issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for two routes connecting the Hampton Roads area to Richmond and the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.   The newly identified route south of the James River recommends a new, alignment from downtown Norfolk through Petersburg to Richmond at speeds of up to 90 mph , while maintaining Amtrak’s current service from Newport News through Williamsburg to Richmond.

    “Connecting to the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is vital for the economic development of the Hampton Roads area,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “From Charlotte to Washington, there will be easy access to historic Williamsburg and to our military bases at Norfolk and Newport News.”

    The new route south of the James River could include up to six daily round trips operating at speeds up to 110 mph between downtown Norfolk, Chesapeake (Bower’s Hill Station), Petersburg and downtown Richmond.  The FEIS also recommends continuing Amtrak’s “Northeast Regional” service between Newport News and Richmond to serve the communities and attractions north of the James River.

    Both routes will connect to the Southeast High Speed Rail corridor in Richmond, providing passengers the ability to travel south to Charlotte, N.C. (and Atlanta in the future) and north to Washington, DC and beyond.  In 1992, the U.S. Department of Transportation designated the “Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor” to connect Richmond and Charlotte with Washington; and in 1995, the corridor designation was extended from Richmond to Hampton Roads… Read More

    U.S. Congresswoman calls for High-Speed Rail Linking Manhattan to Canadian Cities

    -The Globe and Mail

    New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is known for never letting up until she gets what she wants. She successfully championed a “bill of rights” for credit card holders over the objections of the big banks. She was one of the leading proponents in a nearly 10-year battle to get Congress to cover the health-care costs of 9/11 first responders.

    Now, she wants governments in her country and Canada to get moving on building a high-speed rail line that would link Manhattan, where her district lies, to cities north of the border.

    “It would really help the economies of our countries dramatically,” Ms. Maloney insisted in an interview with The Globe and Mail, as she prepared to take the stage on Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention here. “Both of our countries should get behind it, push it and make it happen.”

    The dream of bringing European fast trains to North America has been around for decades without making much headway. But it got a powerful boost from President Barack Obama, whose stimulus bill allocated $8-billion for the development of high-speed rail projects. Most of that money is still waiting to be spent.

    Only one cross-border link – between New York and Montreal – is mentioned in the U.S. Transportation Department’s 2010 list of “priority corridors.” But little progress has been made on advancing the project advocated by the Quebec government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed no enthusiasm for the idea.

    READ MORE

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