O'Malley seeks rail money spurned by Florida

Governor urges U.S. to shift funds to Northeast Corridor

February 19, 2011|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Seeking to capitalize on Florida Gov. Rick Scott's decision to turn down $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, Gov. Martin O'Malley has asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to shift much of the money to projects in Maryland and other places along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

In a letter dated Friday, O'Malley urged LaHood to move much of that money to projects such as the estimated $1 billion construction of a new tunnel to replace the century-old B&P Tunnel just south of Penn Station. That tunnel is regarded as a critical bottleneck slowing trains on the Northeast Corridor.

O'Malley also outlined several other Maryland projects that could benefit from an infusion of a transfer of the money spurned this week by Florida's new Republican governor, who expressed objections to government spending on a project the previous administration had eagerly sought.

Among the items on the O'Malley wish list:

•Replacement of three Amtrak railroad bridges in northeast Maryland, on the Bush, Susquehanna and Gunpowder rivers.

•Redevelopment and expansion of the Amtrak/MARC station and tracks at BWI Marshall Airport.

•Engineering and construction of a third track between Perryville and Elkton to speed both passengers and freight service.

•Improvements to the CSX tracks between Silver Spring and Brunswick, which are used by Amtrak intercity and MARC Brunswick Line trains.

In addition to advocating the Maryland projects, O'Malley put in a good word for the Northeast Corridor as a whole, arguing that it received far less funding than other rail projects under the Obama administration's high-speed rail initiative.

According to O'Malley, the corridor has more than $52 billion in needs to improve the nation's busiest passenger rail system.

Among other things, O'Malley urged LaHood to provide additional funds for the Federal Railroad Administration to prepare an environmental impact statement on its plans for expansion along the corridor.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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