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Governor Patrick Vermonter Restored, December 22, 2014Governor Deval Patrick joined Congressmen Richard Neal and James McGovern, MassDOT Acting Secretary & CEO Frank DePaola, local elected officials and community members for the inaugural run of Amtrak’s Vermonter service on the Knowledge Corridor. The restored rail line, prioritized by Governor Patrick as part of his efforts to invest in infrastructure projects in every part of the Commonwealth, will allow for more and efficient passenger service, and will allow the Commonwealth to maintain and enhance freight service, which will take trucks off the roads, reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am thrilled to see this critical project completed, restoring faster service along the historic Knowledge Corridor,” said Governor Patrick. “I thank our federal delegation including Congressmen Neal, McGovern and Olver and the Obama Administration for their unwavering commitment to making this vision a reality.”

Monday’s inaugural run left Springfield at Union Station and made stops along the new service route in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Amtrak passenger service along the new Knowledge Corridor will officially begin on Monday, December 29. The Knowledge Corridor project returns Vermonter train service to the historic passenger route between Springfield and East Northfield, providing a more direct route, eventual faster service and restored access to the cities of Greenfield and Northampton.

“I’m thrilled that this day has finally come to pass,” said Congressman McGovern. “The new Vermonter service will be a terrific boost to Western Massachusetts. I want to commend everyone involved for making this day possible.”

“Today’s inaugural ride is another important milestone in the effort to upgrade and restore rail transportation along the historic Knowledge Corridor,” said Congressman Neal. “Passengers will now enjoy increased service and shorter travel time from Springfield to Vermont. I helped secure part of the federal assistance that helped make this project a reality, and will continue my efforts to bring east-west rail travel to Western Massachusetts.”

The restoration of train service to the Knowledge Corridor has been a goal of MassDOT and the Patrick Administration, who have been leading the effort to improve the Pan Am Southern tracks and shorten trip times within the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Governor Patrick announced the agreement in principle of the Commonwealth’s $17 million purchase of the Knowledge Corridor rail line from Pan Southern (a joint venture of Pan Am and Norfolk Southern). The Knowledge Corridor runs north-south along Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River Valley and takes its name from the multitude of important cultural, educational, business and medical facilities in the communities along the corridor.

As an important cultural and economic backbone for New England, the Knowledge Corridor/Restore Vermonter project is part of the vision for a New England High-Speed and Intercity Rail Network that will provide a foundation for economic competitiveness and promote livable communities from major and smaller cities to rural areas.

The restoration work along approximately 49 track miles includes the replacement of some 95,000 ties; installation of new continuously welded rail; new active warning signals and crossing gates at 23 public grade crossings and 4 private crossings; upgrades to six bridges; and the first phase of a new signal installation. Restoration work began in August 2012 and will continue through 2016. Following the start of service on December 29, work will continue outside of operating hours to complete adjacent freight sidings to allow freight and passenger service to run simultaneously along with culvert and bridge repairs. The final completion of the Knowledge Corridor project is expected reduce trip times by approximately 25 minutes.

The $131 million project is funded by approximately $80 million in federal grant funds, including a Federal Railroad Administration grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, along with state funds.

“Today we see once again the positive results of our relentless focus on improving transportation options for citizens of the entire Commonwealth,” said Secretary DePaola. “These investments make travel safer and more convenient while also offering new economic growth opportunities.”

The initial Amtrak schedule will be adjusted in coming months upon completion of additional infrastructure improvements. The Vermonter will also add a stop in Holyoke later in 2015 when station work is complete. The additional stops on the new route will replace service provided to the Amherst station, which will end on December 28.

The Vermonter operates daily between Washington and St. Albans, Vermont, with service to Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield, Massachusetts and Essex Junction, Vermont, along with other intermediate stops.

Beyond the Knowledge Corridor, the Commonwealth’s work to increase rail opportunities for commuters and tourists alike continues. MassDOT has been working closely with Pan Am Southern, the City of North Adams and the Town of Adams to have Berkshire Scenic Railway operate the Adams Branch railroad line between the two towns. The operation of a scenic railway between North Adams and Adams would be another draw for the thousands of tourists that flock to the Berkshires each year. MassDOT expects to have an agreement in place for the operation of Berkshire Scenic Railway on the Adams Branch in time for trips to begin this fall.

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