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DOT opens another $2.43 billion in rail grants

(The following appeared on the Journal of Commerce website on March 11, 2011.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is making available $2.4 billion in passenger rail grant money rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott so that other states can submit applications for new projects.

And they have to act quickly. The Department of Transportation said the applications will be due on April 4.

Since most states' intercity passenger rail programs use regular-speed Amtrak service in lanes owned by or shared with freight railroads, the plan clears the way for at least hundreds of millions more dollars to be spent on freight corridor upgrades. Although the money aids passenger train service, state and federal officials say the investments also increase freight efficiencies that can lure more cargo onto tracks and off highways.

In opening the money to competitive applications and new construction projects, LaHood opted not to simply redirect the money to states that already had active project plans, as he did in December when he redistributed $1.2 billion that Wisconsin and Ohio had rejected. Instead, the Federal Railroad Administration late Friday published a lengthy "notice of funding availability" for the unused Florida grant money and other funds, totaling "at least $2.43 billion."

The full story appears at www.joc.com.

Monday, March 14, 2011

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