Northeastern senators make play for high-speed rail funds rejected by Florida
Ten senators from northeastern states requested Monday that $2.4 billion in funding for high-speed rail rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) be redirected to rail projects in their states.
Democratic Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), John Kerry (Mass.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.) as well as Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) made the request in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"With its large population and high economic activity, the Northeast Corridor is well-positioned to lead the nation into the future of high-speed rail transportation," the senators wrote. "If another project sponsor in Florida is not found, our states stand ready to put the unwanted funds to good use to improve our existing high-speed rail service, create jobs, and reduce congestion and air pollution."
The letter follows one penned by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to LaHood this month asking for the high-speed rail funds to be directed to his state and the Northeast Corridor.
Scott two weeks ago joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in rejecting the Obama administration high-speed rail funding, projecting that the program would be too costly to taxpayers. LaHood gave Scott a reprieve until the end of this week to make a final decision on the funding, which would go toward a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando; Scott last week renewed his criticism of the project, calling high-speed rail "a federal boondoggle."
The 10 senators in their letter Monday made the case that "although the Northeast Corridor has the only operating high-speed train in the country, the Corridor has received less than two percent of the $10.5 billion provided by Congress for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program to date."
The text of the letter is after the jump.
A copy of the letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation follows:
February 25, 2011
The Honorable Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood,
In light of the State of Florida's decision to reject $2.4 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funds, we urge you to reprogram these funds to projects on the Northeast Corridor. Our states are ready to put these funds to good use to improve our existing high speed rail service, reduce congestion, and create jobs.
As you know, the Northeast Corridor is critically important to our nation's transportation infrastructure. The region served by the Corridor accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation's gross domestic product and twenty percent of our nation's population. 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. In a recent report, America 2050 rated the Northeast Corridor as the region with the greatest potential to attract high-speed rail ridership in the United States.
Improving passenger rail service on the Northeast Corridor is necessary to accommodate the sixty percent increase in passengers expected by 2030 and will alleviate severe congestion on the region's highways and airspace. At a time when numerous states have rejected federal funding from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, we note that high-speed rail's potential on the Northeast Corridor is proven. For example, ridership on the Acela Express has risen six hundred percent during its nine years of service.
Although the Northeast Corridor has the only operating high-speed train in the country, the Corridor has received less than two percent of the $10.5 billion provided by Congress for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program to date. We believe that this is an insufficient investment in the Northeast Corridor, given our region's position as a population and economic mega-region.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
John F. Kerry
Joseph I. Lieberman
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Frank R. Lautenberg
Christopher A. Coons
Barbara A. Milkulski
Benjamin L. Cardin
| February 28, 2011; 5:47 PM ET
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