Thursday, April 12, 2012

Massachusetts Wins Freight Rail Expansion Project Grant

(SOURCE: WAMC - Lucas Willard)

(WAMC) - The money is part of the Federal Railroad Authority's Rail Line Relocation Grant Program. Massachusetts secured the funding to expand and improve the Patriot Corridor - a rail line operated by Pan Am Southern that stretches from Mechanicville, NY, to Ayer, MA.

The project will involve removing 19 overhead obstructions along 155 miles of track that prevent double-stacked freight lines to pass underneath.

Massachusetts' Congressmen including Representatives John Olver and Richard Neal, and Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown applauded the grants to the Massachusetts rail system.

Hunter Ridgeway, spokesman for John Olver, says that the grant program was extremely competitive.

The grant which was awarded earlier this month, will allow the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to work with Pan Am Southern to develop the preliminary steps in engineering ways to clear the overhead obstructions.

The single largest portion of the project is to increase clearance in the Hoosac Tunnel, located in Florida, Massachusetts, outside of North Adams. Currently, the 4.75 mile tunnel built in 1875, has a ceiling height around 19 and a half feet. The project could look at a way to either clear extra room by cutting away at the ceiling of the tunnel, or digging down to allow a double stacked train to pass underneath.

By modernizing the Western Massachusetts freight line, State Senator Benjamin Downing hopes that more investments will come to modernizing passenger rail as well. Downing said that moving transport from roads back to rails is a benefit to the economy of Massachusetts.

The $2 million in funding will add to over 87 million in private investments on the rail line.

MassDOT's State Rail Plan shows that increasing freight rail capacity will provide more alternatives for shipping and make transport more efficient. Currently, 90% of transport in the region is done by trucking. MassDOT also anticipates the project will benefit freight rail throughout New England.

Pan Am Southern is a part of Boston & Main, and a joint venture between Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern Railway. An engineering team will be hired to study all necessary environmental and structural aspects of the Patriot Rail Corridor before construction plan will be developed.

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