U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the on-time and on-budget completion of a two-year project making upgrades and repairs along 190 miles of track between St. Albans and Vernon on Amtrak's Vermonter line. Secretary LaHood was joined at the dedication by Governor Peter Shumlin, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. Representative Peter Welch and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo, as well as other state and local officials.
"The Vermonter project will grow our economy by moving people and goods more efficiently than ever before," said Secretary LaHood. "This is good news for rail travelers and for the regional economy, and it's one more sign of President Obama's support for rail projects in New England and across America."
The project is one of the first major rail corridor projects to be completed under the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project received $52.7 million in Recovery Act funds. The improvements will result in increased speeds, reduced travel time, greater reliability, and an increased number of trains traveling each day.
Upgrades to the rail track included heavier continuously-welded rail, bridge work, new tie installation and ballast work. These improvements enable the scheduled running time for the Vermonter to be reduced by about a half hour, and passenger-train track speeds in signaled territory to increase from 50 to 79 miles per hour. The upgraded track increased weight capacity from 263,000-pound to 286,000-pound freight cars. The project also repaired and strengthened more than 50 bridges and improved 52 highway-rail grade crossings on track owned by the New England Central Railroad.
The Department of Transportation has made more than $315 million in rail investments throughout New England. Other FRA grants on the Vermonter line include $72.8 million to Massachusetts for improvements between Springfield and East Northfield, Mass., which will reduce travel times by an additional 30 minutes upon project completion. Additionally, $191 million is being invested on the rail line between New Haven, Conn., and Springfield, Mass., which is also used by the Vermonter. All of these improvements will reduce travel times, improve reliability and add capacity. The Vermonter runs daily between Washington, D.C. and St. Albans, Vt.
"This cooperation between the state and the New England Central Railroad to get this job done has put people to work and made infrastructure improvements that will benefit both freight and passenger rail service," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. "Achieving faster travel times and increased reliability on a regional network are the primary goals of our program in the Northeast, which we have accomplished here for the benefit of passengers, shippers and all the communities on the route."
The Federal Railroad Administration and its 34 state partners continue to make significant progress on HSIPR-related projects across the country. With $10.1 billion in federal funding, the agency is moving forward with 154 projects, laying the foundation for a 21st century passenger rail network. At the close of FY2012, FRA obligated 100 percent of the Recovery Act-funded HSIPR projects nationwide.