Reed and Whitehouse Want Previously Budgeted Federal Rail Money Redirected to RI
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to boost Rhode Island rail projects, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are asking the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to redirect a portion of $2.5 billion in high-speed rail Recovery Act funds from Florida to the Ocean State. Earlier this week, Florida Governor Rick Scott turned down nearly $2.5 billion in federal high-speed rail funding, and Senators Reed and Whitehouse say that money could be put to good use improving Rhode Island’s railways and creating jobs.
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Florida state lawmakers sought to override the Governor and move the project forward without his approval. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that Florida has one week to work out a plan or the funding may go to other states and projects.
Today, Reed and Whitehouse sent a letter to Secretary LaHood urging USDOT to consider Rhode Island as one of the states that gets the money.
“Florida’s loss should be Rhode Island’s gain. We can quickly put this money to work creating jobs, improving our infrastructure, and expanding high-speed rail service to more Rhode Islanders. Investing in high-speed rail will help boost economic development, reduce congestion on our roadways, and give Rhode Islanders more transportation opportunities. Rhode Island is a key piece of the busy Northeast Corridor and we would welcome the chance to put these funds to work,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.
“With so many Rhode Islanders still out of work, high speed rail construction can provide many good-paying jobs, while strengthening our Northeast Rail Corridor to give Rhode Islanders new, convenient, environmentally sound transportation options,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Last summer, Reed and Whitehouse brought Secretary LaHood up to Rhode Island to get a firsthand look at the state’s railways as they traveled together by train from Westerly to Providence.
A copy of Reed and Whitehouse’s letter follows:
February 18, 2011
The Honorable Raymond H. LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood:
We commend you for your continuing efforts to create jobs and improve our nation’s transportation infrastructure through wise federal investments. We appreciate the consideration you have shown for Rhode Island’s needs throughout your tenure, as well as your efforts to promote forward-looking transportation projects throughout the country.
As you know, the demand for transportation investment far outpaces available federal, state, and local resources. The decision of the Governor of Florida to reject approximately $2.5 billion in federal high speed rail funding poses a dilemma for your Department. While we recognize that you are committed to doing everything possible to preserve the Florida project, Rhode Island has a tremendous need and desire to make greater investments in its rail system. These investments will help improve high-speed rail service as well as increase commuter rail opportunities in the state. Moreover, they are consistent with the Northeast Corridor Master Plan. These infrastructure needs include:
• a catenary system at the new commuter rail stop at T.F. Green Airport, which would allow for Amtrak regional service while expediting Acela service through the station;
• new sidings at Kingston Station and in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. These sidings will help in the development of commuter service without impeding Amtrak’s Acela trains; and
• safety and other improvements at Amtrak’s Providence Station
To the extent that these previously budgeted federal high speed rail funds have been rejected by Florida, we urge you to do everything you can to allow the State of Rhode Island to access these funds for investments that will promote mobility in our state and along the Northeast Corridor. Thank you for your attention to this request, and we look forward to working with you to continue these kinds of critical investments in our nation's transportation and economic future.
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