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$9 million grant to upgrade western Vermont railroad tracks

ADDISON COUNTY — Ongoing efforts to upgrade Vermont’s Western Corridor rail line for the resumption of passenger rail traffic got a big boost last week in the form of a $9 million federal grant that will fund 7 miles of welded rail and other projects between Rutland and Middlebury.
“The Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) is thrilled with today’s announcement that Vermont’s Western Corridor will be the recipient of federal TIGER program funds and thanks the congressional delegation and Agency of Transportation, whose hard work and dedication made this win possible,” VRAN Executive Director Christopher Parker said through a Sept. 5 news release.
“The significance of this win is not just the money, but the federal recognition of the importance of this route,” he added. “This could help future efforts to seek federal funds.”
But Parker cautioned that “more work will need to be done” to make the necessary upgrades to rail line on the western side of the state. Part of that work will include replacement of downtown Middlebury’s two deteriorating railroad overpasses. Planning is in full swing for a concrete tunnel to supplant the two spans, a project that could begin as soon as next spring.
Parker said once repairs are made to the seven miles of rail covered by the grant, “only about 10 miles of old jointed rail will remain, signifying that we are indeed making good progress.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin said the upgrade is another important step toward offering Amtrak service from Rutland through Middlebury to Burlington.
“For cargo, for passenger rail, for our climate change footprint, for jobs, for economic opportunity, mostly for the western side of the state, this is a huge deal for the state of Vermont,” Shumlin said. The Vermont grant was one of 52 transportation projects in 37 states to receive a total of approximately $474 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program.
“These transformational TIGER projects are the best argument for investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Together, they support President Obama’s call to ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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