Vermont applied for high-speed stimulus funds to rebuild track on both sides of the state to extend the Ethan Allen north to Burlington and make Amtrak's Vermonter an hour and a half faster, as well as for a planning study of multiple frequencies to Bennington, Manchester and Rutland.
We got 2 of 3.
So it's celebration for the eastern side of the state and those near the New England Central Railroad and it's back to work for those on the western side of the state.
The Vermonter route received a total of $160 million, between applications from Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. When work is complete (in two construction seasons), it will mean the end of the Palmer back-up move as the train is routed away from Amherst in favor of Northampton and Greenfield.
The re-build will also benefit freight by raising the weight limit to the national standard of 286,000 lbs and eliminating numerous slow orders.
Meanwhile the "Western Corridor," from Rutland to Burlington, identified as the state's top priority, got nothing.
Press coverage of the awards:
$50 Million From Feds Will Improve Amtrak's Vermonter Service (Vermont Public Radio)
Rail enthusiast Christoper Parker of the Vermont Rail Action Network says that should be good for travelers and industry.
(Parker) "Transportation involves choices. People can choose to put it on the highway or they can put it on the railroad. So this is going to influence how the railroads are equipped to be competitive."
Vermont to get $50 million for high-speed rail (Burlington Free Press)
"I served with Sen. Mazza on the Transportation Committee while I was in the Statehouse, and there's always been a lot of support for rail, but there's not much money to implement policy. This is the sort of funding we dreamed about."
Welch said the rail improvements meant good news for "commerce going out and people coming into Vermont. This will help build livable communities and benefit the environment."
Vermonter Gets a Healthy Boost, But Burlington Overlooked (Burlington Free Press)
"Gov. Jim Douglas said efforts continue to search for money to build the “western corridor,” which would bring trains to Burlington. “That was our first choice,” Douglas said. “We’re still looking for ways to make that happen.”
Options include shuffling other federal stimulus money or going back and asking
[Developer, Melinda] Moulton has another suggestion: “I built the station, and I waited and waited for the train,” she said. “Let’s get Amtrak to Burlington. This is a no-brainer. We have an earmark that is sitting there for this. Let’s spend it. Let’s get it done,” she said, referring to more than $20 million secured by former Sen. Jim Jeffords.
Vermont Transportation Secretary David Dill said the project will bring more than 400 new jobs to Vermont, starting this summer. "Roughly 360 (of the new jobs) will be in construction, and about 50 in design and engineering," Dill told NewsChannel Five.
The upgrades should shorten the current 10 hour train ride from St. Albans to New York City by two hours, Dill said, by straightening the route in Western Massachusetts, and allowing trains through southern Vermont to travel on improved tracks at speeds approaching 80 mph.
Vt. gets $50M for rail, but western corridor upgrade denied (Rutland Herald)
While transportation officials greeted the announcement enthusiastically, the news won't please everyone in Vermont. A third grant application, which sought $73 million for track improvements along the western rail corridor, was rejected. The money would have funded the upgrades necessary to extend passenger rail service from Rutland to Burlington.
Still, John Zicconi, director of planning and operations for the Agency of Transportation, said the $50 million grant for Amtrak's Vermonter line will improve traveling times, create more than 400 jobs and likely boost ridership.
"We do not consider getting $50 million a bad news story, but we did have an application that was not funded and that's the western corridor," Zicconi said late Wednesday. "Could we have put it all to work? Absolutely. But it was extremely competitive and lots of applications didn't get funded, and the fact that we got two out of three is extremely good news."
"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," said Sen. Patrick
Decision nears on grants for rail improvements in Vermont (Burlington Free Press)
The funding would provide major improvement's to Vermont's two rail lines: The Vermonter, which travels from St. Albans to Washington, D.C., and the Ethan Allen Express, which offers daily service from Rutland to New York
A $71.5 million grant would return passenger rail service to Burlington from Rutland -- with a stop in Middlebury. The proposal describes one northbound- and one southbound-train each day. The service would, in effect, be an extension of the Ethan Allen line, which terminates at New York City's Penn Station. If approved, the state would have four years, or until 2014, to complete this project, Flynn said, adding it is "possible" passenger service could be brought to Burlington sooner.
The state is also pursuing a $52.7 million grant for rail improvements on The Vermonter line. The segment that runs from Swanton to Massachusetts, through Essex Junction and White River Junction, would be improved so trains could travel up to 79 mph in some sections, shaving time from the trip. If approved, these improvements would be complete within two years, or by 2012, Flynn said.
The state also sought $500,000 to boost train service frequency to Rutland from Albany, N.Y."
New England rail corridor in line for $160m in US funds (Boston Globe)
“It’s a good piece of news for the Pioneer Valley,’’ said Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Springfield, the hub of the route. “This is precisely what stimulus was meant to do.’’
Federal dollars vital to revival of Inland Route train service (Hartford Courant)
Summary of awards nationally (Transport Politic)
Stimulus funds will upgrade service but not bring high-speed bullet trains (Consumer Traveler)