Vermont, Amtrak formally kick off high speed work
November 9, 2010
ST. ALBANS, Vt. — Vermont, New England Central, and Amtrak officials kicked off their $70 million project to boost track speeds on the route of the St. Albans-Washington, D.C., Vermonter within the Green Mountain State. The project won funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s high speed rail provision announced in January 2010.
A New England Central rail train breaks through a ceremonial banner at St. Albans, Vt., today, marking the start of work on the Vermonter route.
Photo by Kevin Burkholder
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas touted the fact that the project will see more than 141 miles of new continuous welded rail installed, as well as roadbed upgrades, grade crossing replacements, bridge enhancements, and signal improvements. The work will enable Amtrak to increase its train speeds from the current 55 mph to 59 and 79 mph and will give host railroad New England Central the ability to handle carloadings of 286,000 pounds, the current national freight car standard weight limit.
Between St. Albans and White River Junction, train speeds will be held to 59 mph, owing to the lack of a signal system on the Roxbury Subdivision. From White River Junction south to Vernon, signal upgrades to the already installed centralized traffic control system will allow maximum speeds of 79 mph for passenger trains and up to 59 mph for freight.
L.B. Foster, the rail supply company that’s been hired to install the new rail, expects to have 28 miles of welded rail in place by Thanksgiving.
Karen Rae, the deputy federal railroad administration director, was on hand for the event. “That steel was made here in the United States,” she said, “and it’s long overdue that we focus on domestic jobs here in the United States and we intend to use the rail investment, both intercity and high speed rail, to bring domestic manufacturing jobs back to the United States.” She added, “The network we are continuing to build here is part of the overall Northeast network, that is part of the eight or nine states here that will give you the options of going to New York, Boston, or even Montreal, and this will also help freight rail.”
Vermont’s project is one of three different Recovery Act grants totaling $160 million that will improve the Vermonter’s route through New England. Connecticut will receive $40 million to add 10.5 miles of double track to Amtrak’s line between Springfield, Mass., and New Haven, Conn., a line segment shared with other Amtrak trains. Massachusetts was awarded $70 million to reroute the Vermonter onto Pan Am’s direct line between Springfield and East Northfield, Mass., a move that will shave 11 miles of the train’s route and eliminate a backup move.
Future projects will likely be geared toward the procurement of funds for the restoration of the Montreal service and for Vermont’s Western Corridor project. That corridor stretches from Burlington, Vt., to Albany, N.Y., via Rutland, Manchester, and Bennington, Vt. A $500,000 Recovery Act planning grant was received to study the first step in extending passenger service to Manchester and Bennington. That grant authorizes Vermont and New York to conduct a planning project to identify outcomes that address passenger rail service along the Western Corridor.
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