U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $75 Million Grant Agreement to Modernize 50-Mile Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line

Project will increase safety, speed, reliability, and create 260 construction jobs

10/24/2011
Contact: Paul Griffo
(202) 366-4064

LITTLETON, Mass. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has sealed a $75 million agreement that will put an estimated 260 people to work making long-overdue improvements to the 50-mile Fitchburg commuter rail line, one of the state’s oldest passenger rail lines still in service.

The investment will increase the train line's maximum speed by nearly 20 miles per hour, while greatly improving safety and on-time performance to 17 communities and 18 stations. If passed by Congress, President Obama’s American Jobs Act could make more projects like this possible throughout the country.

“Congress needs to pass the transportation portion of the American Jobs Act as quickly as possible so we can continue to invest in critically needed projects like this one,” Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Repairing and rebuilding our nation’s rails, roads, ports and airports will put tens of thousands of people to work today building the infrastructure we need to keep our economy moving forward in the future.”

Joined by members of the Massachusetts delegation and state and local officials, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff signed the agreement with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to provide the federal share of the $159 million project, which will significantly reduce travel times and improve connections between suburban Fitchburg and the MBTA’s Red Line at Porter Square just outside Boston.

“Making these long overdue improvements to the Fitchburg rail line will attract more people to try transit while enabling thousands of daily commuters to get home in time for dinner with their families and help their kids with homework,” Administrator Rogoff said. “The President’s American Jobs Act includes funds to make much-needed repairs like these to rail and bus transit systems around the country, and create jobs we need now.”

Nearly 20 percent of the current line, 9.6 miles, travels on a single track. Maximum train speed is 60 miles per hour, and significantly slower in many sections along the Fitchburg line, which is now the oldest, longest and slowest running rail branch within the MBTA system. It also has the worst on-time performance in all of MBTA.

Planned improvements include:

  • Track upgrades that will allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour
  • Construction of high–level platforms for better accessibility
  • Replacement and updating of grade crossing warning systems
  • Construction of new and modified interlocking
  • Transfer of the Waltham Tower to MBTA Control Center
  • Bridge repair and replacement

The $75 million in FTA Small Starts funds has already been appropriated and to date FTA has awarded $7.8 million for the engineering and design of the project. The Fitchburg Line will continue to operate during the modernization project, which is expected to be completed before 2015.

The Fitchburg Line is also the recipient of $59.2 million from the Department’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER I) program. The TIGER grants will fund a 4.5-mile extension of the line and construction of a new Wachusett Station.

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