On January 28th, U.S. Department of Transportation awarded 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.
The Award is the result of a MassDOT competitive grant application under the High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program to the Federal Railroad Administration to fund this project. The Knowledge Corridor – Restore Vermonter Project is one of the initiatives included in the Vision for the New England High – Speed and Intercity Rail Network which was announced in July by the New England Governors.
The Knowledge Corridor - Restore Vermonter Project will restore Amtrak's intercity passenger train service to its original route by relocating the Vermonter from the New England Central Railroad back to its former route on the Pan Am Southern Railroad. The Pan Am Southern route provides a shorter and more direct route for the Vermonter between Springfield and East Northfield, and improves access to densely populated areas along the Connecticut River. The Pan Am Southern route would include station stops at the former Amtrak station at Northampton and the new intermodal station at Greenfield. The routing of Amtrak service in Vermont and south of Springfield would remain unchanged.
The Project provide improvements to the existing Pan Am Southern rail line, including crosstie replacement, rail replacement, rehabilitation of grade crossings, reactivation of passing sidings and portions of double track, upgrading of switches, improvements to signal and communications systems, surfacing and alignment of track, and improvements to bridges and station platforms. These improvements will facilitate the relocation of the Vermonter by improving safety, increasing operating speeds for existing freight train traffic and the Vermonter, and enhancing capacity on the rail line to accommodate future increased levels of train traffic. The improvements and rehabilitation work will be done within the existing railroad right of way.
The importance and value of this Project was identified through a study sponsored by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), in conjunction with the MassDOT. The preliminary findings of that study has determined that the expansion of intercity passenger rail service in the I-91 Knowledge Corridor, between White River Junction, VT and New Haven, CT, has the potential to be a major component in producing economic revitalization, spurring job creation, improving air quality, increasing overall mobility and reducing vehicular traffic congestion.
MassDOT has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Knowledge Corridor - Restore Vermonter Project, which has been submitted to Federal Railroad Administration. Public comments on the EA and responses to them are included Appendix G in the documents section.