Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday, applauding his recent decisions to designate the Northeast Corridor as a federally-recognized high-speed rail corridor and to provide states and Amtrak with the new opportunity to compete for Florida's recently rejected $2.4 billion High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funds.
The designation of the Northeast Corridor as a federally-recognized high-speed rail corridor will allow Amtrak to apply for grant funding from Florida's rejected high-speed rail funds for projects on the Corridor. Previously, only the Northeast states could apply for projects on the NEC. Permitting Amtrak to apply will allow projects that connect the entire Northeast Corridor to be considered for funding and will bring Amtrak's extensive knowledge of the operations and maintenance of the Northeast Corridor into the grant process.
"Given the Northeast Corridor's strong track record with high-speed rail and the region's high gross domestic product, improvements to the Corridor's rail service would be a smart investment of Florida's rejected high-speed rail funds," said the Senators. "We believe that Secretary LaHood's recent decisions are a positive step that will encourage further higher speed rail development along the Northeast Corridor. We will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that the Corridor receives its fair share of the available high-speed rail funds."
Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal funding for construction of a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando on Feb. 16. Senators Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez, Blumenthal and Coons, along with other Senators from Northeast states, wrote a letter to Secretary LaHood on Feb. 28 to request that Florida's rejected funds be redirected to the Northeast Corridor. The Senators also met with Secretary LaHood on March 9 to further discuss the request.
A copy of the letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation follows:
March 14, 2011
The Honorable Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood,
We write to thank you for meeting with us last week to discuss the opportunity to redirect the $2.4 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funds that the State of Florida rejected. We applaud your recent decisions to designate the Northeast Corridor as a high-speed rail corridor and to provide states and Amtrak with a new opportunity to compete for these funds.
Today's designation of the Northeast Corridor as a federally-recognized, high-speed rail corridor is a critical first step toward increased speeds and improved service in our region. This designation will allow Amtrak to apply for grant funding for projects on the Corridor, bringing Amtrak's extensive knowledge of the operations and maintenance of the Northeast Corridor into the grant process.
In last week's announcement about the new funding opportunity, you stated that grants will be made available to "projects that can deliver public and economic benefits quickly." Because the Northeast region accounts for one-fifth of the United States' gross domestic product, the entire nation will benefit from rail service improvements to the Corridor. In addition, Acela Express' six hundred percent increase in ridership is evidence of high-speed rail's proven track record on the Northeast Corridor.
We believe that your actions are a positive step toward bringing improved rail service to the Northeast Corridor. Because the Corridor has received less than two percent of the $10.5 billion provide by Congress for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, we look forward to working with you to ensure that the Corridor receives its fair share and to advance the nation's only operating high-speed rail corridor.
Thomas R. Carper
Frank R. Lautenberg
Christopher A. Coons