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FRA OKs environmental report for New England passenger-rail plan


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday announced a finding of "no significant impact" for the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative, which calls for more frequent and higher speed passenger-rail service in the region.

In particular, the initiative proposes restoring service between Boston and New Haven, Conn., through Springfield, Mass., along with adding new service between Boston and Montreal.

The FRA attributed its finding primarily to the proposed rail service's use of existing operating rail lines within current rights-of-way, agency officials said in a press release. Proposed infrastructure improvements also would be located within existing right-of-way along areas that had been double- or triple-tracked.

Building the infrastructure would cost more than $1 billion, while operating the new service would cost $56 million annually, New England Public Radio reported.

"Existing passenger-rail service through New England is limited and already at capacity for a region that is growing," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "With an approved blueprint in hand, New England can now move forward to connect people to key job centers and allow students to easily travel to and from New England's numerous colleges."

Through the Next Generation High-Speed Rail Program, the FRA awarded $942,775 to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation to study potential service options and complete the Tier 1 Environmental Assessment.

The two state departments will coordinate the initiative with other projects, including the FRA's NEC FUTURE program, which is an ongoing comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) running from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Together, the northern New England initiative and the NEC FUTURE project will provide greater connectivity to central Connecticut, Massachusetts, northern New England and Montreal, FRA officials said.

A map depicts new or improved routes included in the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative.
(Click to view larger.)
Source: Federal Railroad Administration

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