Eleven Northeast states are asking the Federal Railroad Administration to cover $15 million of an $18.8 million study they hope will help improve and expand high-speed rail service in their corridor.
Amtrak, the government-owned national rail corporation, is partnering with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont on a proposal for a multi-modal high-speed rail improvement plan.
They are asking the FRA to provide about 80% of the funds to get started on the three-year project that would commence in July.
The FRA last month requested proposals for multi-state passenger rail planning demonstration projects.
The Northeast corridor received a small share — about $400 million — of the $8 billion of high-speed rail grants provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Some transportation stakeholders, including John Mica, R-Fla., ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have criticized the FRA for not giving the corridor a larger share of the ARRA grants.
This time, the corridor’s states are vying for part of the $2.5 billion appropriated by Congress for high-speed rail, of which $50 million can be used for planning purposes.
According to a master plan that the states submitted with their proposal, there are “major challenges” in realizing the region’s vision, such as “providing sufficient financial resources to improve [Northeast corridor] infrastructure and sustain growth.”
There is “no obvious mechanism to provide the required level of investment,” the states said in their proposal, adding that they and Amtrak are working on a “comprehensive long-range financial plan” for the corridor’s main line.
The $15 million would help pay for planning and an environmental impact assessment, the most recent of which was completed in the late 1970s. It would basically lay the groundwork to expand service to more distant areas and shave 20 to 30 minutes off the high-speed Acela Express train ride from Boston or Washington, D.C., to New York City.
It is “intended to be one of the most comprehensive and inclusive transportation plans ever attempted on a broad, region-wide basis, drawing on the resources and expertise of stakeholders throughout the Northeast, at all levels of government, as well as railroads, nonprofit organizations, educators, and business leaders,” the states said in their proposal.
Amtrak is the principal rail entity in the northeast corridor. Connecticut, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority own sections of the line. According to the proposal submitted to the FRA last week, Amtrak passengers take about 14 million trips per year through the region.