During a meeting today in Senator Lautenberg's office, U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Coons (D-DE) asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect the $2.4 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funds rejected by the state of Florida to the Northeast Corridor.
"If Florida doesn't want this critical transportation funding, the Northeast Corridor will take it. The Northeast Corridor is a proven success that has greatly benefitted our regional economy," the Senators said. "Train service is critical to our region and smart infrastructure investments will help create jobs and further grow the economy. It would also help ease congestion on our already crowded roads and highways, and reduce harmful air pollution that is detrimental to public health and the environment. As train ridership in our region continues to grow, the Northeast Corridor has a unique opportunity to serve as a national model for high-speed rail transportation in America. The Northeast Corridor is the best place to invest Florida's rejected high-speed rail funding. We appreciate Secretary LaHood meeting with us and look forward to continuing our work with him and our colleagues to support and improve high-speed rail in the Northeast."
In a February 28th letter to Secretary LaHood requesting the funding, the Senators at today's meeting, along with Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) noted that the Northeast Corridor accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation's gross domestic product and twenty percent of the nation's population and has the nation's only operating high-speed train. More than 250 million rail passengers use the Corridor annually and the Acela Express has built the foundation for high-speed rail service throughout the country. Ridership on the Acela Express has risen six hundred percent during its nine years of service.
On February 16, Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal funding for construction of a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando.