Rail officials apply for Western Corridor funds

05/28/09 7:04AM By Susan Keese

(Host) State transportation officials are working on an application for more than $100 million in federal stimulus funds to improve rail service in Vermont.

Robert Ide is Vermont's Rail Program Manager. He says if the application is successful, most of the funds would be spent on the state's western rail corridor.

(Ide) We're showing $ 76. 4  million as activities within the Western Corridor that would help not only freight movement but would also provide the necessary infrastructure for passenger service.

(Host) Vermont currently has one Western Corridor passenger train, the Amtrak Ethan Allen Express from Rutland to New York City. For years, passenger service from Bennington to Burlington has been a goal for many people in the state.

Officials would also like to improve freight service to take the burden off the region's roadways and reduce greenhouse gases. But major improvements need to be made the aging track bed before either of those things can happen.

Ide says the Western Corridor is the top priority in the state's rail plan. He says the track from Rutland to Burlington will be addressed first, and after that the track from Rutland south.

Ide says federal stimulus funds would bring those goals much closer.

(Ide) We will need a minimum of two and perhaps three construction seasons in order to make all the necessary repairs. We probably will be offering the service into downtown Burlington at the end of the second year. But it may not be at the speed that we're able to attain after the third construction season. It's a very optimistic plan, but it is a plan that can be achieved with the proper resources being made available.

(Host) Ide says the state should know by November whether its application will be approved.

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