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Vermonter Governor Deval Patrick calls "exceptional news" today's U.S. Department of Transportation award of $70 million for final design and construction of the “Knowledge Corridor” along the Connecticut River rail line in western Massachusetts.  The competitive grant award is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program.

Connecticut and Vermont received separate grants totaling $90 million to upgrade the New Haven to Springfield and Vermont portion of the line.  The result will be improvements all along the corridor serving the Amtrak Vermonter line. 

“The Knowledge Corridor is a cornerstone of our vision for regional rail and regional economic growth," said Governor Patrick. "This $70 million will support long-awaited improvements, create jobs and restore access to cities in the Pioneer Valley. Thanks to wonderful teamwork with our neighboring states and the advocacy of our congressional delegation, especially Congressman Olver, the Obama Administration recognized the project’s strong potential, and the powerful impact it will have on our economy. I couldn’t be more thrilled or more grateful.”

“This is a historic day for passenger and freight rail in Massachusetts,” says Lieutenant Governor Murray. “Together with the CSX deal and additional ARRA investments in our commuter rail system we are strengthening rail service in every corner of the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts portion of the project with a total budget of $75.6 million will rehabilitate the existing Connecticut River rail line.  The project will create an estimated 626 jobs during construction and 155 permanent jobs by the 5th full year of operation.  Once completed, Amtrak Vermonter service will be rerouted to the line providing a more direct route, faster service and restored access to the cities of Northampton and Greenfield.  The Vermonter will make stops at the former Amtrak station at Northampton and the new regional intermodal transit center in Greenfield.  The Patrick-Murray Administration had already invested $12.8 million in ARRA funds to build the Greenfield facility.

In total, $485 million in stimulus funds will be invested to improve rail lines in the Northeast Corridor. In addition to the investments between New Haven, Springfield and St. Albans, Vermont, $35 million was awarded to Maine to restore rail service between Portland and Brunswick as part of the popular Downeaster service which begins in Massachusetts, and $112 million to fund improvements in the Boston to Washington DC corridor.

MassDOT’s Rail & Transit Division will oversee the Connecticut River line project construction, which is expected to take approximately two years and begin during the 2010 construction season.  Learn more about MassDOT's Hi-Speed Intercity Rail projects.

Read the Globe.  The Springfield Republican story is here.

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