Nearly 200 miles of track in Vermont will be upgraded with $50 million in stimulus funds, slicing an hour of travel time from “The Vermonter” route. Sen. Bernie Sanders helped ensure the funding was released promptly.
The high-speed rail project will be the second in the nation to break ground using funds that Congress approved in last year’s economic recovery act. Maine’s “Downeaster” line was first.
The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration using economic stimulus money set aside for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program.
Upgrades to this 190-mile stretch of track will allow trains to travel up to 79 mph in some sections – cutting an hour from the trip between St. Albans and Washington, D.C. through White River Junction and Brattleboro.
Sanders recently raised concerns with the Federal Railroad Administration over delays in releasing the funds. He said he was pleased by the speedy response.
"In the near future, this investment will create much-needed jobs for Vermonters,” Sanders said. “In the long term, it will strengthen our economy as we improve Vermont’s transportation infrastructure for both cargo and passengers.”
“The United States is the only major country not to have high-speed rail and many trains in this country, including in Vermont, move at very low speeds because of poor-quality rail beds. The good news is that, while much more needs to be done, we are beginning to make some progress as a result of funding from the federal stimulus package,” Sanders said.
The U.S. Transportation Department announced the release of the funds last week.
The upgrades to “The Vermonter” line will include continuously welded rail, new crossties, and safety improvements on track owned by the New England Central Railroad, which is contributing $20 million to the project. The improvements will also set the stage for more frequent service along this corridor and for extending rail service to Montreal, Quebec.
The Vermont congressional delegation also has written a letter of support for federal funding for a rail corridor project in western Vermont. The state has sought a $60-million federal grant for a rail line from Bennington to Burlington; this project would connect Burlington to New York City by rail.