FTA awards MBTA $75M for commuter rail

Posted on October 24, 2011

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sealed a $75 million agreement that will put an estimated 260 people to work making long-overdue improvements to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) 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.

Joined by members of the Massachusetts delegation and state and local officials, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff signed the agreement with the 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.

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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