By Mac McEntire, Wicked Local Wilmington
GateHouse News Service
Wilmington — Wilmington train tracks will receive part of $20.8 million in improvements, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced this week.
On Monday, May 9, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced $20.8 million was awarded to construct a 10.4-mile section of double track between Wilmington and Andover, improving performance and dependability on the Downeaster line that connects Boston and Portland, Maine.
The $20.8 million is part of a $2 billion allocation in high-speed rail funding that the state of Florida had rejected earlier this year. Of those funds, nearly $800 million was awarded for improvements to the Northeast Corridor that connects Massachusetts with economic centers in New York and Washington, D.C. An additional $51 million was awarded to New England states for other high-speed rail projects.
“We didn’t waste a split second, we worked the phones, wrote the letters, and pursued this money because we know what it will do across New England,” said Sen. John Kerry, who was present at Monday’s announcement. “Florida’s loss is our gain and Massachusetts stands ready to put this money to good use starting today. I couldn’t be prouder of our delegation’s creativity and initiative.”
“The federal funds awarded today will help improve our transportation infrastructure both in the Fifth District and in Massachusetts,” said Rep. Niki Tsongas. “These types of rail projects create jobs, decrease commute times and promote economic development.”
The New England Council – a non-partisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England – praised the Obama administration and the DOT for the nearly $850 million awarded to Amtrak and to several New England states to make improvements to high speed rail in the Northeast.
“The Obama administration’s decision to award nearly $850 million in funding to rail projects that will benefit the New England states is a major win for the region, and a wise investment by the federal government,” said James T. Brett, president and CEO of The New England Council.
The New England Council has long supported investment in high-speed rail improvements as integral to economic growth in the six-state region, Brett said.
This funding will have a tremendous impact on New England and on the region’s economy, Brett said. Some of the specific benefits include the following.
·Improvements to these rail corridors will give commuters more options and will decrease travel times, while also alleviating traffic in our congested New England cities and towns.
·Expanded intercity rail will also minimize fuel consumption, as well as carbon emissions. These projects have the potential to create thousands of jobs in construction of tracks and stations, manufacturing of locomotives and rail cars, and eventually, additional conductors and train operators.
·By expanding and enhancing regional rail, New England’s economic centers will be better connected, promoting economic growth and development.
·Improved regional rail will also help encourage other transit-related development, such as clusters of housing and businesses around rail stations.
“Not only will this funding make significant improvements to transportation infrastructure in our region, but the projects funded will help create thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs for New Englanders,” Brett said. “In addition, the region will reap long-term economic benefits as our region’s key economic centers are better connected within the region, and throughout the entire Northeast.”
Other high-speed rail benefits announced on Monday include the following.
Northeast Corridor The DOT announced a $795 million to upgrade some of the most heavily-used segments of the Northeast Corridor, which connects New England to New York City and Washington, DC. This includes $450 million to Amtrak to increase capacity, reliability, and speed. In addition, several states along the corridor will receive funding for various improvements, including approximately $28 million to Rhode Island for track, station, and platform improvements.
Springfield-New Haven Line The DOT awarded $30 million to Connecticut to help complete double-track segments between Springfield, Mass., and New Haven, Conn. This funding will improve intercity rail service along the so-called “Knowledge Corridor” in western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.