AASHTO Reports on First Year of Recovery Act’s Passenger Rail Program

Report and web site highlights long-term economic benefits of the $4.3 billion spent thus far

At the one-year anniversary of announcement of $8 billion in Recovery Act grants for high-speed and intercity passenger rail, AASHTO has released a study showing the progress that has been made. The Federal Railroad Administration has approved $4.3 billion to date, and states are buying locomotives, laying down new track, and refurbishing train stations to bring passenger rail into the 21st century.

The study addresses economic development resulting from the new investment and offers examples of projects from 15 states. Examples of long-term economic activity resulting from this year of investment include: 

  • Nor-Trak, headquartered in Decatur, Ill., is making the castings used to hold rail to ties along the Chicago–St. Louis Corridor.
  • Nippon Sharyo, the largest manufacturer of high-speed rail trains in Japan, is building a new manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Ill., in hopes of building high-speed trains for corridors throughout the country.
  • Steel Dynamics, Inc., in Fort Wayne, Ind., is making continuously welded rail at its Columbia City, Ind., plant, to be delivered to Recovery Act projects in Maine and Vermont. A company once operating at only 27 percent of capacity, Steel Dynamics officials are now indicating that the plant will expand and hire additional workers this spring to meet growing demand.

This year, several stations are getting major face lifts or are being completely rebuilt:

  • In Rochester, a 37-year-old “temporary” building will be replaced with a new intermodal station that will include bus service as well as rail. Other similar station work will be done in Niagara Falls and at the Moynihan Station in New York City.
  • Michigan’s Battle Creek Station is in for a complete renovation, including work to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Similar work will be done in Troy/Birmingham and Dearborn.
  • Work is expected to be completed by next winter on three new tracks and two new platforms at the San Jose–Diridon Train Station in California. This project will add new messaging signs, public address systems, and closed-circuit TVs for added security. The $18 million project, according to Cindy McKim, director, California Department of Transportation, “will enhance not only the Capitol Corridor service performance but will improve passenger amenities in San Jose.”
  • Maryland is working to upgrade the Amtrak station at the Baltimore–Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The $80+ million project will include new platforms, tracks, and a new rail building. Overall, the work is “essential to improving customer service and increasing our ability to move Marylanders more efficiently by rail and motivate them to get out of their cars and use transit instead,” said Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

(More at Highspeed-Rail.org . . . )