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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Vermont Western Rail Corridor Gets Big Boost

Governor Peter Shumlin says a new federal grant will help upgrade track conditions along the state’s western rail corridor.

The governor says the project will also allow the future expansion of Amtrak’s passenger service from Rutland to Burlington.

The new $9 million federal grant is part of an $18 million project to rehabilitate roughly 20 miles of track between Rutland and Leicester. The plan is to replace 9 miles of track, and upgrade 11 farm rail crossings which slowdowns traffic on this section of the corridor.

Let us not forget the western side is transportation challenged with no interstate highway so rail is really important then both for freight and for cargo - Gov. Peter Shumlin

Governor Peter Shumlin says the project has several benefits. One is to improve freight traffic in the western part of the state.

“This is a huge help for jobs and job creation in Rutland, Bennington all along the western part of the state,” said Shumlin. “Let’s not forget the western side is transportation challenged with no interstate highway so rail is really important then both for freight and for cargo.”

The Governor says the track improvements should eventually lead to an expansion of Amtrak’s passenger train, The Ethan Allen, from Rutland to Burlington.

“It helps move Vermonters at faster speeds by rail going back to frankly some of the speeds we used to have in the old days believe it or not,” said Shumlin. “And it also allows us to deliver on the promise of higher speed rail from New York to Montreal with a spur to Boston and this western rail line will feed into that all the way from Albany and Bennington up to Burlington.”

While there’s still more work to be done on the western rail corridor, Shumlin says this grant is a key piece of the overall project.

“This gets us about probably 60 percent of the way we’ve got another 40 percent to do in the section mainly between Rutland and Bennington but we’re going to continue to apply for grants and get this done,” said Shumlin. “What this really does is speed up what was already an aggressive timetable to deliver on higher speed rail on the western side of the state.”

Shumlin says the state of Vermont will contribute $3 million in matching funds to this project. The money was appropriated by the Legislature in this year’s transportation bill.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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