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Passenger Trains To Connect Burlington And Rutland

Taylor Dobbs
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (right), seen here with (from left) Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Rep. Peter Welch and Sen. Patrick Leahy, said transportation infrastructure is vital for connecting "people to the 21st century economy."

Federal, state and local officials gathered in Burlington Friday to congratulate each other on a $10 million federal railway grant announced last year.

The funding is expected to connect Burlington to Rutland with passenger rail service within four years.

State officials say they hope rail service will give more Vermonters access to rail travel that they say will help reduce overall carbon emissions.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this project is an example of investments that are economically important to the communities served by the passenger rail line.

"We don't take the position that we just put steel and concrete and asphalt out on the roadways or the railways," Foxx said at Burlington's Union Station. "We take the view that everything we're doing is connecting people to the 21st century economy, and if we're not doing that, we're not serving America very well."

The state plans to add $11 million dollars to the $10 million dollar federal grant known as a TIGER grant, to complete renovations on the final 11 miles of track between Burlington and Rutland.

The money will also pay for improved bridges, gates at road crossings and passenger infrastructure like platforms.

Between state and federal spending, more than $100 million dollars has been dedicated to improving rail service in Vermont since 2011. And Vermont Transportation Chris Cole says that hasn't yet added up to much difference in the way people and goods move around Vermont.

"We're not seeing the true reflection of what rail ridership is going to be because we've had disruptions because of reconstruction of the lines," he said. "Both in Vermont - we saw ridership dip a little bit when we were bussing people instead of by rail - and in Massachusetts ridership went up a little bit but not as much as it's going to."

Cole says those prior investments will pay off once this project is complete.

"This is the last piece of the puzzle that's going to unlock all of that federal and state investment," he said. "This TIGER grant is the proverbial golden spike for this project."

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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