The Associated Press April 6, 2011, 5:05PM ET

Pa. vies for high-speed rail money nixed by Fla.

Florida's loss could be Pennsylvania's gain.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is seeking more federal money originally set aside for Florida so that it can speed up the travel of passenger trains between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, agency spokeswoman Erin Waters said Wednesday.

The money became available when Florida's governor canceled a high-speed rail project that had won $2.4 billion in federal aid. The deadline to apply was Monday. Two dozen states, plus Washington, D.C., and Amtrak, have asked for a piece of it.

PennDOT wants to use $248 million of that money to cut travel times by 20 minutes on Amtrak's Keystone Corridor East service, between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, by upgrading five switches, or interconnections, that were made for slower trains, Waters said.

That would raise the top speed of the line to 125 miles per hour, up from 110 miles per hour currently. Travel time on the express train would drop to 70 minutes from 90 minutes, and travel time on the regular trains would drop to 85 minutes from 105 minutes, Waters said.

A record 1.27 million passengers used the Keystone Corridor East service during the 2009-10 fiscal year, Waters said.

President Barack Obama wants to create a national network of high-speed trains in an effort to make fast trains accessible to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years.

However, Pennsylvania's record of winning large sums of money for high-speed rail from the Obama administration isn't very good.

In 2009, PennDOT applied for more than $3 billion in federal high-speed rail money, including $490 million for the Keystone Corridor East, $400 million to restore passenger rail service between Scranton and Hoboken, N.J., and $2.3 billion to design and build a magnetic levitation train line between Pittsburgh International Airport and downtown Pittsburgh.

It won nearly $26 million to remove three vehicle-crossing points on the Keystone Corridor East stretch -- that work is yet to be done -- and $750,000 from the federal government to help study the feasibility of expanding Amtrak's intercity passenger rail service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, called the Keystone Corridor West.


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