U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Burlington this afternoon to discuss a $10 million federal grant Vermont will receive to improve the rail corridor between Burlington and Rutland.
The nation’s transportation secretary was joined by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and top state transportation officials to mark the formal agreement bringing the $10 million TIGER, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, grant to the state. The money will allow the state to replace about 11 miles of track, add new gates at several public crossings, install three new passenger platforms, enhance safety and allow trains to travel faster.
Foxx explained that the intent of the TIGER grants is to empower state and local transportation projects that connect people to economic opportunity. “You are not only going to improve infrastructure with this project you're going to transform communities along the rail line. Providing opportunity for the region's residents and businesses by creating jobs, raising incomes, connecting commuters to workplaces and services. And these improvements will provide mobility for vulnerable populations and unlocking the full potential of over $60 million dollars in federal investments made along the rail line. And I'm excited and proud to see what you're doing here in Vermont.”
The funds are the last needed to restore and upgrade the rail corridor between Burlington and Rutland. David Weinstein, representing Senator Bernie Sanders, said the presidential candidate began working on restoring passenger rail when he was mayor of the Queen City. “At that point it had been already thirty years. He was not the first person to suggest restoring rail here. He certainly was not the last. It is no secret, and Secretary Foxx alluded to this, that for decades we've been underfunding the physical infrastructure that our economy depends on. We need to make a sustained and significant investment in our infrastructure to get this economy moving again. And this is a small but important step to seeing that vision.”
Senator Leahy echoed the need for infrastructure improvement, adding that it has been 50 years since Vermonters could get on a train and travel directly to New York and other terminals. More importantly, Leahy says the rail enhancement provides expanded economic opportunities for Vermonters. “The project is a job creator. It is a boost to our economy. It makes better choices for our environment. It gives Vermonters the chance to get out of our cars, reduce congestion on our roads and improve safety. Our Vermont economy relies heavily on tourism. This will certainly help. So the economic benefits are not just to passenger rail. Businesses that rely on the rail line for materials, they’ll see more transportation options. And we know that when government makes significant investments in infrastructure the private sector follows suit.”
The project’s total cost is $26.4 million. Vermont taxpayers are paying $11 million.