LaHood clears the way for Florida’s high-speed rail funds to go to the Northeast

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has designated the Northeast Corridor a federally-recognized high-speed rail corridor, clearing the way for these states and Amtrak to apply for federal high-speed rail grant funding. Specifically, this recognition will allow the Northeast Corridor to apply for Florida’s recently rejected $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funding. As CivSource noted earlier this year, Governors from throughout the NEC sent letters to Secretary LaHood asking for the the rejected funds.

Before this, Northeast Corridor states were only eligible to apply for projects in their area, this designation could allow Amtrak to connect the entire NEC. This move only makes sense, Amtrak already services much of the region and could utilize its existing network along with its expertise to find streamlined solutions to expanding high-speed rail in the region. Additionally, it will help cash-strapped state governments maintain and expand the heavily utilized rail infrastructure throughout the NEC.

In order to be eligible for the money, applicants must show that they can conserve energy, improve efficiency and increase economic development through their projects. The application also requires that projects must be completed by 2017.

Maryland has already indicated that it will apply for $450 million in additional grant funding to complete construction on new rail stations and replace line bridges. The state originally got $10 million in grant funding for the rail station project and will be partnering with Amtrak to apply for the additional funds.

“Our region stands ready to put Florida’s discarded high-speed rail funding to good use. I look forward to working with Amtrak and Secretary LaHood to further advance high-speed rail in New Jersey and the entire Northeast Corridor,” U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg said of the decision.