WASHINGTON, January 28 – U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) today hailed a major announcement that Vermont will receive $50 million for major rail improvements along Amtrak’s Vermonter line.
The funding will help pay for construction of track, roadbed and bridge improvements along 190 miles of railroad used by Amtrak Vermonter service between St. Albans, Vt., and Springfield, Mass., according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The upgrade will reduce trip times and improve reliability.
President Obama and Vice President Biden are to announce the grants Thursday in Orlando, Fla. They are part of $8 billion in high-speed-rail awards made nationwide under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More than $55 billion in applications were submitted for the $8 billion available under the recovery bill that Congress passed last year.
Leahy said, “This is the biggest single investment in passenger rail improvements we have had in Vermont since Amtrak was created, and it’s just the ticket for a shorter and smoother ride on the Vermonter. Amtrak brings direct and indirect commerce to our state, as well as giving Vermonters more travel options. This is an investment in our future and a vote of confidence in this rail line.”
Sanders said, “This is great news. It will create much-need jobs for Vermont now, provide a long-term boost for our economic future, and help Vermont become energy efficient as we strengthen our public transportation. I thank President Obama and the Department of Transportation for understanding Vermont’s important role in the northeastern United States transportation network.”
Welch said, “Our state’s rail system formed the foundation upon which modern-day Vermont was built. Today’s announcement signals that rail will be at the heart not only of Vermont’s past, but of its future as well. “Passengers and businesses alike will reap the benefits of high-speed rail in the years ahead. Most importantly, it will provide an enormous and immediate economic boost, creating jobs throughout Vermont.”
Another $500,000 was awarded for planning studies for a proposed rerouting of Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express service between Rutland and New York. The proposed rerouting will introduce service to communities that now lack intercity passenger rail service. Communities along the existing route would continue to be serviced by intercity passenger rail service.
The White House also announced that Massachusetts will receive $70 million for additional rail upgrades that will provide a shorter and more direct route for the Vermonter between Springfield and East Northfield, Mass., and improve rail access to densely populated areas along the Connecticut River.
The upgrades will allow trains to travel up to 59 mph – and even 79 mph in some sections – cutting valuable time off the route between St. Albans and Washington, D.C. The improvements could cut an hour off of the trip through Vermont and Massachusetts.