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DOT's TIGER Strengthening American Freight Rail

DOT's TIGER Strengthening American Freight Rail

Thanks to DOT’s TIGER program, last week was a great one for American rail.  Of the $474 million in funding awarded to 52 projects in 37 states, $146 million of it – or about 30 percent of all funding – went to 17 rail projects in 16 states, extending the program’s four-year reach to 48 states and $808 million in project funding.

Supporting President Obama’s call to “Fix-it First,” I had the pleasure of announcing two of these grant awards in person, and to see firsthand the commitment of state, city, and community leaders to do what it takes to enhance the safety, efficiency and reliability of their freight rail systems. 

Photo of FRA Administrator Szabo with Vermont Governor Shumlin
FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin; photo courtesy Vermont Digger, John Herrick

In Vermont, an $8.9 million grant will be used to help rehabilitate 20 miles of rail between Rutland and Leicester.  And In New Hampshire,  $1.4 million in funding will  upgrade the 42 mile Northcoast Rail Corridor, including a section that couldn’t  be used since it was washed out in 1993.

Leaders in Vermont have been working very hard to enhance transportation options and economic growth opportunities for communities.  As Governor Peter Shumlin said, “For cargo, for passenger rail, for our climate change footprint, for jobs, for economic opportunity – mostly for the western side of the state – this is a huge deal for the state of Vermont.”  The State’s goal is to bring the entire 75-mile Vermont Railway up to modern standards. 

When the project is done, 9 miles of old jointed rail track on the Northern Subdivision will be replaced with continuous welded rail and eleven at-grade rail crossings will be upgraded.  This will eliminate slow orders, allowing sustained operations up to 40 mph, and will enable the rail service to safely and efficiently carry heavier loads, strengthening a critical connection for Vermont shippers to the Class I network in New York, and it also will open up the possibility of expanding Amtrak’s Ethan Allen service to Burlington.

In New Hampshire, I met Dean Boylan, the chief executive officer of the Northcoast Railroad, owned by Boston Sand & Gravel. The Northcoast was established in 1986 on an abandoned rail line.  And with the improvements made possible by TIGER, the Northcoast Railroad’s ties to Pan Am Railways will be strengthened, while re-establishing connections to the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad to reach ports in Portland and Portsmouth.

The commitment to freight rail I saw in Vermont and New Hampshire is one I see across the nation - and the truth is, there remains an enormous pent-up demand for similar investments.

These projects are catalysts for economic growth and creating good-paying jobs, all while building a stronger transportation system for future generations.  And as Secretary Foxx has said, the projects in New England are great examples of what we need to be doing more of across the nation.

These projects represent yet another reason why we need a predictable and reliable funding stream for rail transportation.


Joseph Szabo is Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

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Mr. Szabo has introduced some errors to the NHN grant, which were then picked up by media. Sadly, the funds will NOT be used to extend NHN to the north to the SLR. That would require tens of millions of dollars. Nor does SLR serve the port [not for more than 20 years!] of Portland. And it has never served Portsmouth. Mr. Szabo - next time please call me first! Chop Hardenbergh Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports.