Amtrak and the Department of Transportation finalized agreements to spend $745 million to improve on-time passenger rail performance on the Northeast Corridor, a busy track zone often shared with freight traffic.
The money is part of $2 billion that was rejected earlier this year by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who turned down federal funds for building a bullet train passenger service between Tampa and Orlando. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood redistributed the funds in May among 15 states and Amtrak.
In all, Amtrak nabbed $795 million of the former Florida money for its Northeast Corridor, the most heavily used section of track in its system. That lane runs between Washington, D.C., and Boston, where travelers often use Amtrak in lieu of taking air or highway trips.
Amtrak will use about $450 million to upgrade electrical systems and tracks between Trenton, N.J., and New York City, boosting on-time service and schedule reliability. That will also raise top operating speeds to 160 mph from 135 mph now on a 24-mile run from Trenton to New Brunswick, and allow for future speeds to reach 186 mph.
Another $295 million will go to the state of New York to help Amtrak build new tracks and bypass an area where it now suffers some major delays at a junction for trains moving in and out of Manhattan.
But the awards needed implementation contracts before the money could be formally obligated and construction could begin. The DOT has now wrapped up several of those accords, including deals earlier this month with California and Illinois that locked in $336 million to buy trains.
Since the awards require use of U.S.-made materials, LaHood said the grants help the economy by “creating new construction jobs, ordering American-made supplies and improving transportation opportunities across a region where 50 million Americans live and work.”