Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) Tuesday announced that Vermont will receive a $7.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to upgrade the New England Central Railroad in northern Vermont.
The federal grant will be used to rehabilitate 19 miles of track between St. Albans and the Canadian border in Alburgh with new rail, ballast and ties, and to make structural and deck repairs on six bridges. By achieving a 286,000-pound carrying capacity on the entire line in Vermont, this project will make freight rail more efficient and competitive, creating new economic opportunities for companies all along the rail line.
These rail improvements also will accelerate efforts by the State of Vermont and Amtrak to expand passenger rail service along The Vermonter line to Montreal – creating a seamless connection between major cities like Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Montreal and points in between.
Leahy said, "On top of the enhancements we are already making into this rail line, these additional improvements will make Vermont more competitive by generating new economic opportunities for businesses and new transportation options for travelers. This is a wise investment in our future and a real vote of confidence in the rail line and the Governor's vision for rail in Vermont."
Sanders said, "Not only will this grant create jobs and enhance movement of freight between Vermont and Canada, but upgrading this segment of track is another step towards extending Amtrak's Vermonter passenger rail service to Montreal. This is exactly the kind of investment in our rail infrastructure that the federal government should be doing."
Representative Welch said, "A strong rail network will not only tie entrepreneurs, small businesses and towns to regional hubs, it will bring people from those places to Vermont. This investment in Vermont's rail network will create good jobs, improve our transportation infrastructure and strengthen Vermont businesses."
"I am grateful to everyone who worked to make this happen," said Governor Peter Shumlin. "From our team at VTrans to the best congressional delegation in the country, everyone gave their all. This final 19 miles to the Canadian border is a critical step in our plan to restore passenger rail service to Montreal."
RailAmerica's Assistant Vice President of Government Relations Charles Hunter said, "The improvements on this line will create many new opportunities for business growth in Vermont and beyond. This will mean a continuous North American Weight Standard corridor from the Canadian border to Massachusetts."
The U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized the importance of the New England Central Railroad by making two previous investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the economic stimulus package -- to upgrade the line between St. Albans and the Massachusetts border. New England Central Railroad expects that project to be completed this year.
Leahy, Sanders and Welch also have supported increases in the carrying capacity of the line to foster new freight opportunities, including expansion work on the tunnel in Bellows Falls to allow for the use of modified, double-stack freight cars.