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FTA OKs $75 million grant agreement for MBTA's Fitchburg line


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has sealed a $75 million grant agreement to fund upgrades to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) 50-mile Fitchburg line, one of Massachusetts’ oldest passenger-rail lines, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced yesterday.

The project is designed to increase the line’s maximum speed by 20 mph, improve safety and on-time performance at 18 stations, and reduce travel times and improve connections between Fitchburg and MBTA’s Red Line at Porter Square outside Boston, according to a prepared statement.

Nearly 10 miles of the existing line is single track and train speed is limited to 60 mph or significantly slower in many sections along the line, FTA officials said. The line is the oldest, longest and slowest-running branch line within MBTA’s system, they said.

Track upgrades would enable trains to travel at speeds up to 79 mph. The project also calls for building high-level platforms; replacing and updating grade crossing warning systems; constructing new and modified interlocking; transferring the Waltham Tower to MBTA Control Center; and repairing and replacing bridges.

The grant agreement covers the federal share of the $159 million project. The FTA already has appropriated $75 million in Small Starts funds, and to date, has awarded $7.8 million for engineering and design work. The line will continue to operate during the project, which is scheduled to be completed before 2015.

The MBTA also has received $59.2 million from the USDOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery I, or TIGER I, program, to help fund a 4.5-mile extension of the Fitchburg line and construction of a new Wachusett Station.

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More News from 10/25/2011