Maloney Hails Federal Grant to Ease Amtrak Delays in NYC, Spur High-Speed Rail in NE Corridor

May 9, 2011
Press Release
New York, NY – U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) hailed a $294.7 million federal high-speed rail grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation to make improvements to Harold Interlocking, a portion of the Sunnyside Rail Yards through which Amtrak trains must pass on their way to and from Boston.  The Harold Interlocking junction is located in Maloney’s Congressional district and the Congresswoman has been a strong supporter of this grant, for which Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Jay Walder applied in April.  A copy of a letter Maloney sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in support of the grant follows.

Harold Interlocking is the busiest passenger rail interlocking in North America, with 783 trains moving through the interlocking each day from three different transit systems: the Long Island Railroad, Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit.  Because of the way Harold Interlocking is currently constructed, conflicts among the three rail lines are frequent, resulting in constant delays and disruptions at Pennsylvania Station and on the Northeast Corridor.  The funding will allow the MTA to construct a bypass that would provide Amtrak with conflict-free access to Harold Interlocking, reducing delays for trains to and from Boston and paving the way for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.

“Amtrak will soon have a ‘fast track’ through Harold Interlocking, a bottleneck that has bedeviled New York train passengers for years.  Right now, three major transit systems all funnel into this one junction and rack up major delays in the process,” Maloney said.  “This project has local participation, it is shovel-ready, and it is a necessary first step toward bringing high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor.  I thank Secretary LaHood for approving this grant, Governor Cuomo and MTA Chairman Walder for their leadership in applying for it, and my colleague and Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica for his dedication to improving rail service in the Northeast Corridor.”

The State of New York also received two additional federal high-speed rail grants today to help improve service in the Empire Corridor: $58 million for upgrades to tracks, stations, and signals, including building a new Schenectady Station and a fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer Station; and $1.4 million for a preliminary studies on building a new Rochester Intermodal Station.

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May 3, 2011

The Honorable Ray LaHood
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood,

            I called you on Monday, May 2nd, and I am sorry to have missed you.  Please be advised that I was calling to express my strong support for the State of New York’s request for $294.7 million for improvements to Harold Interlocking, a portion of the Sunnyside Rail Yards through which Amtrak trains pass on their way to and from Boston.  The request was made as part of the State’s application for high speed rail funds.  High Speed Rail on the Northeast Corridor will not be possible unless a by-pass is constructed at Harold Interlocking to create a conflict-free route. 

            I am told that Harold Interlocking is the busiest passenger rail interlocking in North America, with 783 trains moving through the interlocking each day from three different transit systems, Long Island Railroad, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.  Amtrak trains constitute about 17% of the traffic through Harold Interlocking, with 136 trains passing through to and from Boston on the Northeast Corridor Service.  Because of the way Harold Interlocking is currently constructed, conflicts among the three rail lines are frequent, resulting in constant delays and disruptions at Pennsylvania Station and on the Northeast Corridor.  The funding would allow the MTA to construct a by-pass that would provide Amtrak conflict-free access to Harold Interlocking.

            The project is fully designed and has undergone extensive environmental review, including a Final Environment Impact Statement (FEIS).  The by-pass was initially proposed as part of the East Side Access project, and was included in East Side Access’s FEIS and many environmental Technical Memorandums. I am also told that an executed agreement with Amtrak is in place, that Amtrak supports this project, and that a Record of Decision has been achieved.  Accordingly, this project is shovel-ready and could be implemented at any time.

            While the East Side Access project is the subject of a full funding grant agreement (FFGA) with the Federal Transit Administration, the Harold Interlocking portion of the project was not part of the FFGA.  The total cost of the by-pass at Harold Interlocking is $368.4 million, and the MTA would provide 20% of the funding for the local match. I am told that in accordance with the Notice of Funding Availability, all of the funding will be obligated by September 30, 2012 and the project will be completed by September 30, 2017.

            In short,  Harold Interlocking is a project that makes sense: it has local participation; it is shovel-ready with an FEIS and a Record of Decision; and it is necessary first step to bringing high speed rail to the Northeast Corridor.  I hope you will give New York State’s application your most favorable consideration, consistent with all applicable rules and regulations.

Very truly yours,

CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress

cc: John L. Mica, Chair, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Jay Walder, Chair, Metropolitan Transportation Authority