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MassDOT, Amtrak, CSX Working Together on Federal Grant to Improve Rail Corridor

Tue December 13, 2022 - Northeast Edition #1
Massachusetts Department of Transportation

MassDOT has submitted an application for more than $108 million in federal funding for rail corridor improvements between Springfield and Worcester to restore Inland Route intercity passenger rail service. (Amtrak photo)
MassDOT has submitted an application for more than $108 million in federal funding for rail corridor improvements between Springfield and Worcester to restore Inland Route intercity passenger rail service. (Amtrak photo)

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently began a partnership with the rail services Amtrak and CSX to apply for funding from a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant program to strengthen the rail corridor between Springfield and Worchester.

The application to receive the FRA's Fiscal Year 2022 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant seeks more than $108 million for corridor infrastructure projects planned under Massachusetts' "Connecting the Commonwealth: Early Actions for the Inland Route Project."

"Rail infrastructure projects, especially those between Springfield and Worcester, are a major part of the Commonwealth's path forward to providing service between Boston and Springfield," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. "I'm glad we can take advantage of the unprecedented rail funding opportunities available from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the CRISI application will help us realize our goal of faster train trips between western and eastern regions of the state."

The $108 million sought by the partnership via the CRISI grant will go toward the total project cost of approximately $135 million. MassDOT also plans to contribute more than $18 million, with Amtrak kicking in another $9 million to the overall cost.

Effort to Greatly Enhance Rail Service in Region

MassDOT outlined the planned rail upgrades in the grant application:

  • The project will facilitate two Amtrak Inland Route daily round trips as a first phase of corridor improvements that improve connections within Massachusetts between Boston, Worcester and Springfield and to communities beyond the [state] in Connecticut and New York City. In addition to the two new daily trains, travel times will be improved for the existing Amtrak Lake Shore Limited, enhancing connections from Eastern Massachusetts to Pittsfield, [Mass.], Albany, N.Y, and other upstate New York communities.
  • It will increase operational efficiency and flexibility by reducing passenger and freight train conflicts and reducing travel times along the remaining single-track segments on the CSX-owned segment between Worcester and Springfield. These upgrades are a necessary first step for increasing train frequency and speed along the Inland Route Corridor and the corridor between Boston and Albany.
  • Also included are infrastructure improvements that result in increased train speeds and more corridor capacity along the 53-mi. section of the CSX Boston & Albany (B&A) Line between Worcester and Springfield. The extension of existing passing siding capacity and other track upgrades will increase the maximum authorized speed, or MAS, to 80 mph and minimize train delays along the 44-mile single-track segment. In addition, a siding will be built in Grafton, Mass., that will improve the efficiency and capacity of freight interchange with Grafton & Upton Railroad while also minimizing the freight impacts to passenger operations.

"We are pleased to work with Amtrak and CSX to make improvements to this portion of the CSX-owned Boston-Albany Line to begin Amtrak service along the Inland Route, connecting Boston, Worcester and Springfield to Hartford and New Haven, Conn., and New York City," said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler. "These improvements will allow for additional corridor capacity and decrease travel times between station destinations."

Tesler added that his state and Amtrak have enjoyed a strong partnership over the years in providing rail services in Massachusetts and connecting communities across the Northeast.

"We look forward to the approval of this CRISI application so we can make the necessary investments to expand passenger rail options in Massachusetts while ensuring the fluidity of the freight rail network," he explained.

Officials with both Amtrak and CSX also expressed their happiness with the alliance between the three entities to apply for the federal funds.

"Amtrak is proud to collaborate with MassDOT and CSX Transportation in seeking infrastructure funding from the CRISI grant program," said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner. "This investment will advance the long-awaited restoration of Inland Route service to Western Massachusetts. It is the first step in expanding service to these key communities and connecting passengers to destinations throughout the Northeast and beyond."

Likewise, Andy Daly, senior director of passenger rail operations for CSX, noted that his company's support for the grant application builds on its long-standing relationship with CSX's passenger rail partners.

"We look forward to working with the current team at MassDOT and the incoming [Gov. Maura] Healey Administration to advance this important project that seeks to improve rail infrastructure along a corridor that connects five of the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S.," he said.

Feds Earlier Gave MassDOT Money for Planning

Last summer, the Biden Administration awarded MassDOT almost $1.8 million through the CRISI program for preliminary engineering and environmental review for investments that will improve rail infrastructure, enhance safety and operational flexibility, and increase train capacity near Springfield's Union Station. In turn, the state agency is contributing a 50 percent matching amount.

According to MassDOT, these investments will support the Amtrak Springfield Line, the CSX Boston Albany Line, and small segments of the former Armory Branch and Knowledge Corridor. Improvements to be made with the funding also complement the investments proposed in the latest CRISI application, in addition to east-west passenger rail service, should state legislators, state officials, and other stakeholders decide to take necessary steps to provide additional service between Albany and Boston.

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