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Patrick criticized for lackluster rail effort

After the Obama administration announced on Friday that states can compete for $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money recently rejected by Florida, a Boston-based advocacy group bashed Gov. Deval Patrick for not aggressively seeking the funds. 

After the Obama administration announced on Friday that states can compete for $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money recently rejected by Florida, a Boston-based advocacy group bashed Gov. Deval Patrick for not aggressively seeking the funds.

“Their priorities are in the wrong place,” said Richard Arena, president of the Association for Public Transportation. “They are looking too much at tactical projects — an extended subway line here, another commuter rail here — they’re not looking at projects that will help the economy and the entire region.

“They’re not thinking big enough, in my humble opinion.”

This is the third time Arena has pushed Patrick to prioritize enhanced high-speed rail, which would send passengers from Boston to New York in less than 90 minutes and Boston to Washington in less than three hours.

MBTA GM Rich Davey said Patrick sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood after Florida's announcement, and MassDOT Secretary Jeff Mullan participated in conference call with federal officials and initiated an internal group working with neighboring states.

“Massachusetts is aggressively seeking to receive a portion of these funds,” Davey said.

But Arena said while states such as New Jersey are already laying high-speed rail infrastructure, plans to renovate South Station don’t include underground tracks equipped to handle high-speed lines.

The deadline to apply for the Florida funds is April 4. Arena’s group is hosting a high-speed rail conference on March 26.

“It’s never bad to put more pressure on,” Arena said of the conference.

 
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