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Massachusetts officials have agreed in principle to purchase from Pan Am Southern a 49-mile track segment between East Northfield and Springfield, Gov. Deval Patrick announced on Wednesday.Known as the Knowledge Corridor, the line is undergoing a major restoration that will result in more efficient passenger-rail service in response to demand, and will allow Massachusetts to maintain and enhance freight service, according to a Massachusetts Department of Transportation blog. Pan Am Southern is a joint venture between Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern Railway."For close to 100 years, the commonwealth's rail infrastructure was the lifeblood of economic vitality for communities in Franklin and Berkshire counties, and across western Massachusetts," said Patrick."“Through this agreement, we are realizing the renewed value this infrastructure can have in creating economic opportunities throughout the region."
The agreement to purchase the line represents a milestone in the Knowledge Corridor/Restore Vermonter project, the governor said. The project will restore the original route of Amtrak's Vermonter traveling between St. Albans, Vt., and Washington, D.C., from its current route via Palmer and Amherst.
Work will include upgrades to the 50-mile Pan Am Southern Connecticut River Line between Springfield and East Northfield. The restoration will relocate the Vermonter north-south service to the corridor by year's end, state officials said.
Starting this month, work will include replacement of 95,000 ties; installation of new continuous-welded rail, new active warning signals and crossing gates at 23 grade crossings; upgrades to six bridges; and the first phase of a new signal installation. The restoration is funded through a $75 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration and $40 million in state funds.
The project is expected to be completed in 2016.
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