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Maryland Amtrak passengers to see speed, reliability upgrades

(The following appeared on the Baltimore Sun website on May 9, 2011.)

BALTIMORE, Md. — Amtrak passengers in Maryland and other Eastern states emerged as some of the biggest beneficiaries of Florida's decision to turn down more than $2 billion in federal high-speed rail funds, as the Obama administration redirected nearly $800 million of that money into Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

The windfall includes $22 million sought by Maryland for planning and engineering of a replacement for the century-old bridge that carries Amtrak and MARC trains over the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Monday that about 40 percent of the $2.02 billion, made available by Gov. Rick Scott's decision to pull the plug on a new rail line between Tampa and Orlando, would go to projects intended to increase the speed and reliability of Amtrak service.

In addition to the money Maryland will receive, the Federal Railroad Administration announced it would direct $450 million to Amtrak itself for improvements to the power, signal and track systems in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak said that money would be used to improve a heavily used section of the corridor between Morrisville, Pa., and New Brunswick, N.J., as well as to overhaul track switches at New York's Penn Station.

Amtrak said the track, signal and power line improvements will let it increase the maximum speed of its Acela trains along the 24-mile segment of the corridor from Morrisville, across the Delaware River from Trenton, N.J., to New Brunswick, from 135 mph to 160 mph. The railroad said the project is part of a plan to add six New York-Washington Acela round-trip trains to its schedule by 2018 and 15 by 2022.

In addition to Maryland, Rhode Island and New York were awarded money for improvements to the corridor. New York was allocated $295 million for a track project to alleviate delays in Manhattan, while Rhode Island will receive $28 million for track and station improvements.

Full story: Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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