$50 Million From Feds Will Improve Amtrak’s Vermonter Service

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(Host) Over the next two years, a $50 million federal investment in Vermont should shave 90 minutes off a train trip to New York.

But, as VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, hope for a broader revival of passenger rail on the western side of the state won’t happen for now.

(Sneyd) Amtrak’s Vermonter service will travel 79 miles an hour on most of its run once money from Washington pays to replace rail, repair the road bed and improve bridges.

Increased speed was one of the primary goals behind the Obama administration’s spending on passenger rail.

Rail enthusiast Christoper Parker of the Vermont Rail Action Network says that should be good for travelers and industry.

(Parker) "Transportation involves choices. People can choose to put it on the highway or they can put it on the railroad. So this is going to influence how the railroads are equipped to be competitive."

(Sneyd) The Vermonter runs from New York City, up the Connecticut River Valley to White River, and then diagonally crosses the state to St. Albans.

State officials are excited about slashing the time it will take to travel to New York.

But for years they’ve hoped to re-establish passenger service between Bennington and Burlington.

All they got for that corridor was $500,000, to begin studies on the Bennington line.

John Zicconi of the Vermont Transportation Agency says that’s still promising because the Obama administration may hand out a second round of grants.

(Zicconi) "We’re getting strong signals out of Washington that there will be more rail money in the future. They’re already in preliminary budget talks talking about another $2.5 billion for nationwide grants."

(Sneyd) Zicconi says about $20 million that former Senator Jim Jeffords got for the project is still available. But that’s a little less than a third of the total amount needed to pay for all of the work.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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