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Governor, RIDOT and others discuss future of high-speed rail in RI

05-27-2011

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and members of the Congressional delegation joined the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) at Kingston Station today to talk about the future of high-speed rail in Rhode Island and the $28 million Federal grant recently awarded to the State.

Rhode Island was one of 15 states to share a $2 billion award declined earlier this year by the governor of Florida. Of the $28 million awarded to the state, $25 million will be used for improvements at Kingston Station, including an additional 1.5 miles of track to enable high-speed Amtrak Acela trains to bypass regional trains, and work to raise the platforms to give the station full ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility. The remaining money will fund preliminary engineering and environmental work to renovate Providence Station.

“These federal funds will help our state continue to make necessary, forward-looking investments in infrastructure,” Governor Chafee said. “We must make transportation modernization a priority and ensure that Rhode Island is linked to the rest of the region through high-speed rail. These projects are important investments in the future of our State, and I am pleased that the Federal government has recognized their significance.”

Rhode Island’s proposal was rated in the top 1 percent of nearly 100 applications submitted nationwide, and was the only state to receive awards for two projects on the Northeast Corridor main line.

“We are honored that the Federal government saw fit to fund these projects,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “It’s a win-win that will benefit both Amtrak service and the State’s plans to expand commuter rail further into South County.”

“Amtrak supports the decision to award high-speed rail funds to our partners in Rhode Island,” said Tom Moritz, Senior Director – Commuter Partnerships with Amtrak. “We will continue to work closely with the State to assist them with further development at Kingston, as well as with the continued expansion of South County Commuter Rail.”

Approximately 85 percent of the available funding was distributed to the Northeast region, with $795 million going to the Northeast Corridor line to boost capacity and speed in some of the most heavily used sections of the corridor. By building an additional track at Kingston Station and allowing Amtrak Acela trains to bypass regional trains, the high-speed service will now be able to attain speeds of up to 150 mph in southern Rhode Island.

“Expanding our high-speed rail network is a smart investment, and I am pleased we were able to take these Federal dollars from Florida and put them to work here in Rhode Island. These infrastructure upgrades will save Amtrak passengers time, and help improve boarding and on-time service for everyone who travels through this station,” said Senator Jack Reed, who brought U.S. Transportation Ray LaHood to the Kingston station last summer to get a firsthand look at Rhode Island’s rail network.

In a press release announcing the grants earlier this month, LaHood called the awards an “unprecedented investment” in the nation’s high-speed rail system. Federal officials aim to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail in the next 25 years.

“High speed rail construction will provide great jobs, while giving Rhode Islanders convenient, environmentally sound transportation options in the face of rising gas prices,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who pressed for the funds in hearings and, along with Senator Reed, wrote a letter to LaHood in February requesting that Rhode Island be eligible to compete for the funds. “This is an important investment in our State's future.”

Although the Federal grants specifically deal with high-speed rail improvements, the work also will aid the State in expanding commuter rail to Kingston Station. RIDOT is conducting a feasibility study for an extension to Kingston and Westerly, and expects it to be completed by the end of the year. South County will see its first commuter rail stop come online early next year, when the Wickford Junction station opens in North Kingstown.

“I wrote to Secretary LaHood, along with other members of our delegation, about the importance of investing in the Rhode Island transportation projects because they produce construction jobs and a better transportation system to attract more business in the future,” said Congressman James Langevin, who recently met with the head of the Federal Highway Administration about investing in transportation in Rhode Island. “I look forward to working with everyone here today to ensure accountability for the results of this high-speed rail funding and that Rhode Island’s transportation needs are a top priority at every level of government. Underfunding or delaying investment in our infrastructure at any level simply means pushing the costs onto someone else or dealing with the problem after a disaster happens.”

“I’m thrilled that, together, our Congressional delegation was able to help deliver $28 million in Federal funding for high-speed rail in Rhode Island,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “But much more needs to be done. As a comparison, each month we spend approximately $8 billion in Afghanistan – that’s as much as the entire investment made thus far in high-speed rail. We need to get our priorities straight. The United States is falling behind in transit and high-speed rail and in the global economy of the 21st century – we cannot afford to fall behind any further. High-speed rail is a guaranteed job creator. It is a vital infrastructure investment that will help grow our economy and allow us to compete.”

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Contact: Bryan Lucier 401-222-1362 x4012

 

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