Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

State snags transit grants

Source: The News Journal

By Jeff Montgomery

November 1, 2010

Delaware has swept up more than $20 million in federal aid for key rail and transit projects across the state, along with a share in an additional $10 million to help 10 states plan for a higher-speed rail corridor along the Northeast.

Gov. Jack Markell said the grants are important additions to the state's effort to improve its transportation system for the short and long term.

"These are improvements that are going to help us with infrastructure that keeps up with demand and helps us to get from one place to another quickly, easily and affordably," Markell said.

"As these projects get off the ground, each of them will provide important jobs in the construction and engineering industry, which are critical to strengthening our economy in the near term, but they're also big investments in the competitiveness of our state long-term."

Sen. Tom Carper and Sen. Ted KAUFMAN, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Mike Castle joined Markell in outlining the aid at DelDOT's Dover headquarters.

Included in the awards:

•A $13.3 million Federal Rail Administration grant to support a $45 million project that will add a third commuter rail track between Wilmington and Newark, to shorten travel times, reduce schedule conflicts and allow increased SEPTA rail service between the cities.

•$5 million from the Federal Transit Administration for a new DART maintenance center and Park & Ride lot at the former Wright Chrysler dealership along Del. 1 near Lewes and the Five Points intersection.

•$3.7 million from the FTA for seven new 40-foot hybrid buses equipped to use diesel or electric power.

Delaware also will share in a $10 million multistate grant from the U.S. Department of Transportationfor environmental studies and other planning needed to increase train speeds along the Northeast rail corridor.

•$2.25 million for planning a multipurpose transit center in tandem with the redevelopment of the former Chrysler assembly plant site in Newark. Delaware competed with other states for the grant, drawn from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

DART Administrator Stephen B. Kingsberry said state officials have been seeking aid for another rail track along Amtrak's main line for several years. Construction is expected to start early next year and will employ about 115 people, with eventual long-term employment of about 15.

The Newark rail station planning grant, Kingsberry said, will be used to develop a passenger rail station near the former Chrysler assembly plant that is more accessible to handicapped travelers and commuters.

Transit officials will work closely with the University of Delaware as it considers Amtrak, SEPTA, and other commuter needs during conversion of the former car plant into an education, research and business center, Kingsberry said.

The project also will eliminate conflicts with freight traffic moving around the nearby Norfolk Southern yard.

Carper, who has led some efforts to overhaul state air quality and energy laws, said all of the projects will help the nation reduce its costly dependence on foreign oil, a problem that has jeopardized national security. It also will help reduce pollution from motor vehicle traffic and time losses from congestion.

"What we're trying to do here is give people options," Carper said. "We live at the end of what I call America's tailpipe. We need not just people in Delaware to get out of their cars, trucks and vans, but people across America, especially people west of us, whose pollution blows right into our faces."

Carper said that transit will be an important part of the university's redevelopment of the Chrysler site and Delaware's effort to attract business from the military's expanding operations at Aberdeen Proving Ground in neighboring Cecil County, Md.

"There's a lot of moving parts here and we've got to be smart enough to figure out how to make it all work, and do it in a way that's cost-effective," Carper said.

Markell said the Newark transit project is an important part of the Chrysler project, and transportation improvements are crucial to the state's recovery.

"These investments are critical for the long-term health of the economy, in terms of creating additional jobs and attracting additional employers," Markell said. "People want to see that we're making these investments."

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