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Officials Announce $108 Million Federal Grant to Build East-West Rail

An Amtrak train waits to depart from Springfield Union Station in January 2020. Photo by Trains in the Valley, licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.

Governor Maura Healey, Congressman Richard Neal, and officials from MassDOT and Amtrak are gathering in Springfield this morning to announce that the state has won a $108 million for rail infrastructure upgrades that will allow faster, more frequent passenger train service between Springfield and Boston.

Earlier this year, MassDOT submitted a grant application through the U.S. Department of Transportation's expanded Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) program, which funds railroad infrastructure improvements.

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CRISI program saw a three-fold increase in funding.

According to the Commonwealth's grant application, the $108 million will upgrade key bottlenecks on the 54-mile section of railroad that connects Worcester and Springfield – a segment of railway that's owned by CSX, a privately-owned freight rail corporation.

Currently, roughly 10 freight trains and two Lake Shore Limited Amtrak trains (one in each direction) share a single track on 44 of the 54 miles of railroad between Worcester and Springfield.

MassDOT's proposed project would add a second passing track on about 23 miles' worth of the route to allow more trains to use the corridor.

The project would also upgrade tracks and signals so that more of the corridor meets federal standards for a "Class 4" railroad, which would allow passenger trains to run at speeds up to 80 mph.

Those proposed track improvements could enable Amtrak trains to run up to 80 mph, and reduce the time for passenger rail trips between Boston and Springfield to 2 hours and 10 minutes – roughly the same amount of time it takes to drive.

During Friday morning's press conference, MassDOT Rail and Transit Administrator Meredith Slesinger said that the state has already started doing some technical work in preparation for the track improvement projects.

"We are doing some technical analysis now and we will have a better sense of the timeframe for construction," said Slesinger. "CSX is the right-of-way owner, so they get final say on the timeline, but most rail projects take several years to implement construction improvements and start the new service."

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