Vermont Rail Upgrade Grant Rejected by Feds

Despite the No vote, officials remain committed to restoring passenger rail service to the route.

Wed September 24, 2014 - Northeast Edition

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) A Vermont Transportation Agency official said Sept. 15 he was disappointed the state didn’t get a federal grant that would have helped complete an upgrade to the rail system between Rutland and Burlington, but officials remain committed to restoring passenger rail service to the route.

The agency learned the prior week that their application for a transportation infrastructure grant of almost $10 million was rejected.

Chris Cole, the agency’s director of policy, planning and intermodal development, said they hadn’t learned yet why the application was rejected.

“It’s a setback,” Cole said. “It puts in question the timeline where we had been talking about potentially two to three years getting the train into Burlington, it definitely puts that into question, but I don’t believe it jeopardizes the goal of returning passenger rail service to Burlington.

Restoring passenger rail service between Rutland and Burlington has been a goal of the state of Vermont for years. It is seen as an economic development tool, both because for the passengers it would carry and how the improved rail line would better serve the freight trains that use it.

The grant would have helped install continuously welded-rail on the final 11-mi. (17.7 km) stretch between Rutland and Burlington. The rest of the line has been upgraded or the funding has been identified to pay for the upgrade.

In addition to the upgrades on the rail itself, restoring passenger service would also require upgrading about a dozen road crossings and building a siding for freight trains.

If the Department of Transportation offers the grants again next year, Vermont could apply again, Cole said. Failing that, the state could apply for other federal grants or possibly seek federal loans or consider issuing state bonds to pay for the project.

“We’re going to keep working toward it and continue to look for partnerships with the feds,” Cole said.

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