April 14, 2011: Markey, Kerry, House Deleg. Urge Funding to Repair Merrimack River Railroad Bridge

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Malden) joined Senator John Kerry, and Reps. Barney Frank, Richard E. Neal, John W. Olver, John F. Tierney, Jim McGovern, Michael Capuano, Stephen F. Lynch, Niki Tsongas, and William R. Keating to request federal funding to repair a railroad bridge in Haverhill.
 
In a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administration Administer Joseph C. Szabo, Markey and his colleagues asked for $77 million in available federal rail funding to restore the Merrimack River Railroad Bridge.  The funding “will greatly benefit Massachusetts residents and any passenger traveling along the Amtrak Downeaster service from Portland, Maine, through New Hampshire, and into Boston.”
 
The deteriorating bridge currently bottlenecks traffic as trains must reduce their speed to 15 miles per hour to pass over it safely.  Restoring the bridge would also help to facilitate the expansion of daily service on the Downeaster from five roundtrips to seven roundtrips.
 

The full text of the letter is below:
 
The Honorable Ray LaHood            
Secretary                                           
U.S. Department of Transportation  
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E.               
Washington, D.C. 20590

The Honorable Joseph C. Szabo       
Administrator
Federal Railroad Administration      
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E.               
Washington, D.C. 20590
 
 
Dear Secretary LaHood and Administrator Szabo:
 
We write today in support of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant application for the rehabilitation of the Merrimack River Railroad Bridge in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  The requested $77 million in federal funding—a relatively small amount given the $2.4 billion in available funds—will greatly benefit Massachusetts residents and any passenger traveling along the Amtrak Downeaster service from Portland, Maine, through New Hampshire, and into Boston.  The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will provide a 22 percent non-federal match for this project.
 
In its current state, the Merrimack River Railroad Bridge is a bottleneck for travel down the Amtrak Downeaster line.  Passenger trains traveling along this 116-mile line must slow to 15 mph at the bridge, which in turn leads to significant motor-vehicle traffic congestion at the bridge.  Restoration of the bridge would not only fix problems of speed and congestion—by increasing the travel speed from 15 mph to 40-60 mph—but would also help to facilitate the expansion of daily service on the Downeaster from five roundtrips to seven roundtrips.  (There are currently plans to expand the daily Downeaster service to seven roundtrips, but the current condition of the bridge will not accommodate this planned expansion.)  Restoration of the bridge is estimated to increase ridership by almost 90,000 in the first year alone.  
 
As you know, Massachusetts has long-endeavored to maintain and increase quality rail service throughout the Commonwealth.  We believe Massachusetts is an example of why the President’s bold vision for rail makes perfect sense, and we urge you to give this application your strong consideration as Massachusetts officials endeavor to improve rail service for New Englanders.
 
Thank you again for your continued support of passenger rail in Massachusetts.  Please contact us if we can be of any assistance.
 

Sincerely,
 
 
                      
John F. Kerry                                                              Edward J. Markey
United States Senator                                                 Member of Congress 
 
 
Barney Frank                                                              Richard E. Neal                                
Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress
 
 
John W. Olver                                                             John F. Tierney
Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress
 
 
James P. McGovern                                                    Michael Capuano                              
Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress
 
 
Stephen F. Lynch                                                        Niki Tsongas 
Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress
 
 
William R. Keating
Member of Congress                                                 
 
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