BURLINGTON, May 6 – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Governor Peter Shumlin Friday gathered in front of Union Station in Burlington to celebrate progress made to restore passenger rail service to the iconic stop by Lake Champlain and improve freight service across Vermont’s Western Corridor. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Leahy and Welch late last year announced a $10 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the last leg of the project between Rutland and Burlington.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders, Welch and Shumlin said: “For more than 50 years, Vermonters in the Champlain Valley and Rutland region have eagerly waited for the return of passenger rail service. This project will provide a convenient new transportation option that links Vermont’s most populous area with cities like New York and Washington. Improving the movement of freight is vital to our state’s economy and better positions Vermont businesses to compete in existing and emerging markets. This project is a winning scenario for passengers looking to travel across our state and for businesses moving their products across the country.”
Secretary Foxx said: “Transportation is always about the future. If we’re just fixing today’s problems, we’ll fall further and further behind. We already know that a growing population and increasing freight traffic will require our system to do more,” said Secretary Foxx. “In this round of TIGER grants, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future: safer, more innovative, and more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.”
FRA Administrator Feinberg said: “This is a day Burlington has been waiting a long time for - this funding will help not only take us back to a time when passenger rail extended to Burlington, but more importantly, it will take us into the future.”
Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras said: “Restoring passenger rail and improving freight along our state’s Western Corridor is a vital step forward in bringing new visitors to Rutland businesses and moving our economy forward. I’m glad to see the progress that we have made, and our community looks forward to completing this project.”
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said: “Reestablishing passenger rail service to Burlington will be a major transportation breakthrough for our City and the whole region. We are very thankful to all of those who have worked hard for so many years to see this dream realized, and the City is committed to doing everything it can to help push this critical effort over the finish line.”
Leahy, Sanders and Welch have long sought U.S. Department of Transportation funding for the Western Vermont Freight-Passenger Rail Project, an ambitious multi-year effort to upgrade antiquated rail infrastructure, between Rutland and Burlington. Last year, they sent a letter to Secretary Foxx, urging him to support the state of Vermont’s application for a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to fund the last leg of the effort.
The completed project will greatly improve the movement of freight in the region, allowing Vermont businesses to compete more effectively in the global economy. It will also relieve congestion and lessen strain on U.S. Route 7. The project also will play a significant role in Vermont’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by doubling rail freight tonnage and quadrupling passenger rail ridership over the next 20 years.
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