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Maine and Vermont Get Fed Grants for Railway Improvement

Maine and Vermont Get Fed Grants for Railway Improvement

The federal government has given both Maine and Vermont some cold, hard cash to improve their railways. Maine received $20 million to help pay for upgrading and repairing 380 miles of track to create faster and more reliable service. Vermont was awarded $10 million for improve service in its Western Corridor. The funding comes from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program which was created during the Great Recession in 2009 to serve as a competitive program that would give out discretionary grants.

Maine’s grand project, estimated to cost a little over $37 million, will eliminate bottlenecks and get freight to businesses faster. The program will be supervised by the Maine Department of Transportation, who is throwing in an additional $400,000. The will receive and distribute all funding. Four private railroads have coordinated with each other for an unusual working partnership, and will supplement the grant money with $14.5 million of their own. The companies are Pan Am Railways, New England’s largest railroad; Central Maine & Quebec Railway, connecting Searsport with interior Maine and the west; and Maine Northern Railway and Eastern Maine Railway, both of which are owned by J.D. Irving subsidiaries.

Nate Mouton, director of rail programs for the Maine DOT, commented on the large scope of the project, citing that the state’s railroads have come together in an unprecedented move, to work together on the project. “They will act more like a single large railroad, like a Class I, to provide good and smooth service from one end of the state to the other,” he said. Because of the cooperation, the short-line and regional railways will be able to offer improved service to their customers, which means businesses will receive their goods quicker and be able to increase their competition.

There are only three states in the nation that do not have Class I railroad within their state, and Maine is one of them. Class I railroads can be classified as large railroads that haul freight anywhere from northern Canada to southern Mexico, like Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern. The main project, which will connect some railways in Maine to Class I tracks, is slated to last two years, with a start date in spring of 2016.

As announced by their governor and congressional delegation, Vermont will use the $10 million coming its way to improve the Western Corridor’s railways and restore service for passengers traveling between Rutland and Burlington. The undertaking has been dubbed the Western Vermont Freight-Passenger Rail Project. Additional funds will come from the state, who will match the fed’s $10 million.

Vermont congress released a joint statement that said, “Vermont’s rail links were important to our past development, and rail service is an important ingredient in our transportation future. There is an overwhelming need here and across the country to improve our infrastructure for the 21st century. This investment is a win-win scenario for improving both freight and passenger service.”

The railways will replace track with new rail ballast and ties, put up new gates at public crossing intersections, as well as adding new passing siding in Pittsford and a crossover in Leicester. The passenger tracks will be remodeled to include new platforms and both freight and passenger rails will get new tracks for improved safety and faster transfers.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation received the grant to fund parts of their ambitious $500 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER)program, which hands out grants for improvements and upgrades in rail and transportation areas across the U.S.

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