WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both D-NJ, have asked federal Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood to release $450 million that will used to improve rail lines that serve Amtrak and NJ Transit riders.
Their letter to LaHood comes after the Republican-led House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that would rescind $1 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, including funding that the Department of Transportation has previously announced will be going to a project in New Jersey.
The Senate has not yet voted on a similar bill. However, Lautenberg’s office said if the DOT “obligates,” or releases the money, before the House bill becomes law, the funds that are supposed to go to New Jersey will not be frozen.
“We are writing to urge you to move expeditiously to release the $450 million in high-speed intercity passenger rail funding recently committed to the Northeast Corridor,” the Senator’s wrote. “Amtrak is prepared to move forward immediately, and we therefore ask that you obligate this funding without undue delay.”
The $450 million will go toward power, signal and track upgrades along a section of the Northeast Corridor, one of the busiest train routes in the country. The maximum speeds would increase from 135 mph to 160 mph by 2017, making it the fastest passenger train line.