While we continue working on speed and service improvements for rail passengers on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit lines, we're also moving forward on President Obama's vision of American high speed rail in the Southeast, one of the nation's fastest growing regions.
The growing number of passengers choosing rail to travel between Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Washington, DC, indicate another thriving corridor in the making. And we're supporting their choice to ride rail with investments that will make passenger rail service on the Charlotte-Richmond-Washington line even more competitive.
In Raleigh and Rocky Mount today, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced a $26.5 million grant to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to improve reliability and reduce delays for passengers and freight traffic in the eastern part of the state. This money will put men and women to work improving service for both the Amtrak Carolinian line, which runs between New York City and Charlotte, and the Amtrak long distance trains that run between New York City and Florida.
This project to eliminate key choke points was developed in partnership with the freight railroad CSX, and that cooperation will ensure that both freight and passenger railroads can thrive while improving service. That's a win for everyone.
The work will include installation of new track and ties, crossovers, and signals to alleviate rail congestion in this area and allow freight and passenger rail traffic to move more fluidly. The line connects with future Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor stations in Petersburg and Raleigh, where trains will travel at 110 mph in coming years.
As Administrator Szabo said, “This project is a great example of rail carriers, governors, mayors, legislators, advocacy groups, and policy makers coming together to establish a clear vision for this multi-state corridor, and creating a plan to eliminate this bottleneck."
And not only will these two projects put people to work right away; they will also reduce trip times and delays, making the Southeast region a better place to locate a business and create jobs.
This week also marked a key development for California High Speed Rail as the FRA signed a record of decision clearing the final technical hurdle for construction on the 65-mile Merced-Fresno segment. The California High Speed Rail Authority expects to break ground on this historic project in early 2013.
And today, President Obama will announce plans to streamline federal evaluation and permitting of the rail system's 114-mile Fresno-Bakersfield segment. He is directing the FRA to finish its environmental review of this line by October 2013, which could speed up this ambitious project by more than six months.
This is part of the President's "We Can't Wait" approach to job creation and economic growth. The sooner we can clear the tracks for this important work, the sooner we can put thousands of men and women to work building the transportation capacity and connectivity needed for long-term economic expansion.
From coast to coast, DOT is working hard to improve travel times and service for rail passengers, but we're creating something even more important: good jobs and an America built to last.