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Some of rail money Fla. rejected will go to Northeast instead

(The following appeared on the Boston Globe website on May 10, 2011.)

BOSTON — Awarding $2 billion in high-speed rail grants spurned by Florida, the federal government yesterday redirected a big chunk of that money toward the Northeast, including $21 million to improve speed along 10 miles of track shared by Amtrak’s Downeaster and the MBTA’s Haverhill commuter rail line.

But Massachusetts authorities failed to secure a bigger prize: $100 million sought to rebuild a 92-year-old railroad bridge over the Merrimack River.

Competition for the money Florida rejected was fierce, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the Federal Railroad Administration received heavy lobbying, ultimately spurning about 75 projects.

More than one-third of the money, about $800 million, is headed toward Amtrak and state agencies in the Northeast Corridor — the line connecting Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington — but most of that will be spent in New Jersey.

The $20.8 million to improve the track shared by the Downeaster and the Haverhill commuter line actually went to the Maine entity that oversees the Downeaster, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, albeit with the support of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Massachusetts is contributing $5.2 million more to pay for $26 million worth of track improvements from Wilmington to Andover.

The work has three main elements: rebuilding three grade crossings to bolster safety and speed train passage; installing 3 miles of double track to allow one train to pass another that is stalled or heading in the opposite direction; and replacing five miles of bumpy rail from the 1950s with smoother rail, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England authority.

Full story: Boston Globe

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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