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Maloney: NY-Boston Amtrak upgrade funds from Florida’s refusal of high-speed rail

A plan that aims to cut train travel time between New York and Boston by two hours was the byproduct of a long-winded political dispute in another part of the country. According to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the $295 million down payment for improving the Northeast Corridor (Boston-New York-Washington) was originally earmarked for a Florida high-speed rail plan killed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Photo by Ryan Stavely/ Flickr
Photo by Ryan Stavely/ Flickr

“Florida made a mistake. They said, ‘We don’t want high-speed rail.’ And they gave their high-speed rail money back to the government,” Maloney said during her keynote speech at the REW Women’s Forum on Tuesday.

“So I went to the MTA and said, ‘Let’s go after it and try to get it.’ With the leadership of Andrew Cuomo, we were successful in getting over $300 million as a down payment on high-speed rail between Boston and New York and it goes to the bottleneck in Queens where the Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the LIRR all compete for the same lines.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott refused federal funding for high-speed rail in his state, setting off a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. After the court ruled in Gov. Scott’s favor in 2011, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood divided the $2.4 billion earmarked for the plan between 15 states. According to Maloney, the money made its way to New York and was allocated for the improvement of “Harold Interlocking,” which connects 14 tracks in the Sunnyside, Queens rail yard.

The Northeast Corridor, which goes from Boston to New York to Washington D.C., is the busiest rail line in the country. Every day, about 2,200 trains take the route. Currently, the closest thing to a high-speed train in the US is Amtrak’s Acela, which has a maximum speed of 150mph. The Acela trains rarely hit its top speed, only averaging 70 mph. This is much slower than the maglev train (magnetic levitation) in Shanghai, China, which operates at a speed of 267.8 mph.

Currently, the fastest train on earth is Central Japan Railway Company’s maglev bullet train, which had a test run that reached 375 mph. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company wants to import the technology to the US for a rail link between New York and Washington.

Amtrak estimates that converting the Northeast Corridor to true high-speed rail would require a $150 billion investment. According to a concept report that the company released in 2010, high-speed rail would boost the average speed between New York and Boston to 148 mph. This would reduce travel time to just 84 minutes, two hours less than the current rate. Meanwhile, the average speed between Washington and New York would go up to 137 mph. This would reduce travel time to 96 minutes, one hour less than the usual rate.

High-speed rail between New York and Boston would make trains a more attractive option for passengers that fly between the two locations. Currently, Amtrak carries more passengers between New York and Boston than all airlines combined.

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