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The federal government will provide $10 million to help fund repair and reconstruction work for a railroad bridge across the Merrimack River in Haverhill, Mass., according to U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.). The funds will be provided through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery III program.For the past several years, speed and weight restrictions have been in place for trains crossing the two-track bridge, which was built in 1919. The bridge is used by Pan Am Railways, Amtrak Downeaster and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority as part of freight- and passenger-rail services between Portland, Haverhill and Boston.The bridge improvements will enable the structure to accommodate 286,000-pound freight cars, and allow the railroads to increase passenger train speeds from 15 mph to 40 mph or 60 mph and freight train speeds from 5 mph to 30 mph. In addition, the project will eliminate passenger and freight train conflicts, helping to boost reliability and on-time performance.State transportation officials have sought to replace the bridge because of its deteriorated condition. In 2011, they submitted an application for $98.4 million in federal high-speed and intercity passenger rail program funds for a bridge replacement project, but the request was denied. Instead, the state was awarded $20.8 million to build a 10-mile section of double track between Haverhill and Boston.The bridge "provides an integral connection from Boston to Haverhill and other northern locations, and maintaining its integrity is essential to economic and job growth in this region," said Tsongas in a press release. "Repairs will ensure commute times are improved, delays are eliminated and the safety of the bridge is maintained."
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