$1 million to rebuild track: New York gives grant to Vermont Rail System

B y Derek Liebig

 

A section of rail line in Whitehall, which has been abandoned for three decades, will be replaced thanks to a grant of more than $1 million from the New York Capital Region Economic Development Council.

Dave Wulfson, president of Vermont Rail System,  estimated those improvements would result in an 18-minute reduction in the time it takes for a train to travel from Whitehall to Rutland, a section of track that has been criticized for creating considerable delays in the past.

 “We were asked for enhancement projects that could help us do business in the area,” Wulfson said. “We’re pretty happy about this.”

He said the track through Whitehall used to be described as a “Y,” with one branch heading north and the other heading east toward Vermont. However, the north leg of the “Y” was removed a few decades ago. The money will be used to replace that section of track.

“We’re looking to put that back in. It should allow anything from the north to continue through toRutlandand cut down on congestion,” he said.

Right now, two trains heading in opposite directions have to wait for the other to pass before they are able to continue. And while the new section of track wouldn’t eliminate that, Wulfson said it would help to cut down on delays.

The project is yet another investment along the line.

Vermont Rail System has pitched in approximately $750,000 of its own money and received an additional $2.5 million in grant money from the New York State Department of Transportation to pay for improvements along the line.

This summer, crews used some of that money to replace 12,000 railroad ties, resurface eight miles of track and improve eight crossings fromWhitehallto theVermontStateline.

Because the old ties were in such poor condition, trains had to travel slower, but with new ties, travel time has decreased.

The replacement of ties was completed in preparation for next year’s “rail change out project,” during which several miles of rails would be replaced.

The current rails, which are tied together by joints, will be replaced by welded rails which are stronger.

Last year, Amtrak officials claimed that less than 70 percent of their trains were arriving in Rutland on time because of “slow orders” issued by the rail company for safety reasons.

In January, a train derailed inWhitehallcausing Amtrak service to be canceled and shut the line down for a day until crews were able to clear the track.

However, the improvements have addressed some of those issues.

Wulfson said the latest project for which they received money was still very much in its infancy.

“Basically we just got the grant and now there’s a whole process to get started.”

Once the contract is signed with the state, Vermont Rail can put the project out for bid. Wulfson said construction is likely not to begin until 2013 and would take approximately one season to complete.

Vermont Rail also received for a $450,000 grant for bridge repairs along its Ogdensburg line in upstateNew York.

Agencies and projects throughout the region will receive a total of $63 million from the council’s five-year strategic plan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo created 10 regional councils this summer, tasking each with the responsibility of developing a five year for economic development projects.

In all, the state has awarded $785.5 million in funds for more than 700 projects.

The Capital Region Council, which includesWarren,WashingtonandSaratogaCounties, received just under $63 million for 88 projects, including job training, housing and infrastructure. 

The council, which consisted of businessmen and women, as well as higher education officials, developed goals and a plan for the region

Those goals and plans were then evaluated by the state and the grants announced last week.

The village ofFortEdwardreceived $400,000 for the purchase of land on Roger’sIsland, whileWashingtonCountyreceived $750,000 for a sprinkler system at Pleasant Valley Infirmary.

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council, which includes most of theAdirondackParkwas one of the “best plan” sites and was awarded $103 million.

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