NEW YORK (AP/CBSNewYork) – The federal Department of Transportation announced Monday that $745 million would be going toward rail projects that will allow trains to travel up to 160 mph in some sections of the Northeast Corridor and to construction that will allow Amtrak trains to avoid a congested rail junction in part of New York City.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell With The Good News

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the projects would create 12,000 jobs over the span of construction.

“These grants are a win for our economy and a win for commuters all along the Northeast Corridor,” LaHood said. “We are creating new construction jobs, ordering American-made supplies and improving transportation opportunities across a region where 50 million Americans live and work.”

About $450 million will be used to upgrade electrical systems and tracks between Trenton, N.J., and New York. The upgrade means Acela Express trains will be able to achieve a top speed of 160 mph on 24 miles of track between Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J. The current top speed is 135 mph. When Amtrak puts the next generation of high-speed trains into service, top speed will reach 186 mph, the DOT said.

About $295 million will be used to construct an overpass at the Harold Interlocking rail junction in Queens, which the DOT said was the busiest passenger rail junction in the country. The overpass will separate Amtrak trains going between New York and Boston from Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter trains and from New Jersey Transit trains using the Sunnyside Maintenance Yard in Queens. The separation of trains should ease congestion.

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“Currently, the situation is somewhat of a tangle and the funds are intended to alleviate that problem,” Jeffrey Zupan of the Regional Plan Association told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

The DOT said pre-construction on the track project between Trenton and New York would start in late 2011 and initial construction would start in 2012. Construction on the overpass project is scheduled to begin in September 2012.

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