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DOT Starts Distributing Recovery Act Rail Grants

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Nearly $80 million in intercity and high-speed rail grants have been delivered to states, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced today.

The grants will go toward the development of a brand new Recovery Act funded high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando, as well as critical upgrades to existing passenger rail service in California, Wisconsin, New York and New Mexico.

"Delivering these funds is an important step forward in our efforts to upgrade and transform America's transportation system, while spurring economic activity and creating jobs here at home," said Vice President Joe Biden. "Our unprecedented investment in high-speed and intercity passenger rail is not only going to provide real environmental benefits and greater convenience for travelers, but also long-term economic development for communities across the country."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said: "The president's vision for high-speed rail will forever change the way Americans travel by offering new transportation options. The grants released today are merely the very beginning of many more to follow."

Among the projects funded:

$66.6 million for program management and preliminary engineering on the planned 168 mph high-speed rail service between Tampa and Orlando, Florida. This project will create jobs and generate economic activity as 84 miles of track are constructed, stations are built or enhanced, and equipment is purchased. Along with California, Florida was the only state to submit plans to the Department of Transportation to create a brand new, high-speed rail line.

$6.2 million for track relocation work in California on the Capitol Corridor, which will help bring about fewer delays and faster travel times along a route that connects San Francisco and Sacramento, the state capital.

$5.7 million for environmental assessments of planned new stations on the route between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin that will host passenger rail service operating at speeds up to 110mph.

$1 million for planning projects to improve service on the Empire Corridor in New York state. The 468-mile Empire Corridor connects all of New York's largest cities. The near-term vision for the corridor is to increase passenger train speeds to 110mph.

$100,000 for the creation of the first-ever rail plan for the state of New Mexico. This plan will help the state create a blueprint for passenger rail development that will eventually link major cities in the Southwest.

The Department of Transportation expects the president's $8 billion down payment for high-speed rail will create or save tens of thousands of jobs over time in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning, engineering, and rail maintenance and operations. The majority of the president's Recovery Act passenger rail funding will go toward developing new, large-scale high-speed rail programs.

In addition to the $8 billion in Recovery Act funding, the Department of Transportation says the administration proposes a minimum $1 billion a year for five years in the federal budget to jump-start this multi-decade effort. Congress funded this program above and beyond the president's initial request and allocated $2.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2010.