LEOMINSTER /Massachusetts Newswire/ — As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Massachusetts Recovery Plan, Governor Deval Patrick today joined Congressman John Olver and local elected officials in Leominster to announce the groundbreaking of the first rail improvement project in Massachusetts supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Governor Deval PatrickThe $10.2 million ARRA investment will fund the first stage of the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Improvement Project that will improve speed, service and reliability on this important rail line. The projects, which include an additional $39 million in ARRA funding for double-tracking and $150 million in New Starts funding, will support the installation of new switches and signals as well as two new renovated stations and the reconstruction of existing track on the state’s oldest commuter rail line. The installation of a new universal crossover at the Leominster location is part of the early work program of the overall Fitchburg Line program and will enhance both freight and commuter rail operations in the region.

“This project will reduce travel time to and from Boston, greatly enhancing service for the region’s commuters and business that depend on this vital line,” said Governor Patrick. “Thanks in large part to Congressman Olver’s advocacy, we are using federal recovery dollars to make the kind of smart investments that put people to work immediately and give the regional economy a boost today and over the long term.”

“I would like to thank Governor Patrick for investing in commuter rail improvements for the North Central Region. ARRA funds were intended to create jobs and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. The Governor’s commitment to commuter rail will do that and will also provide long-term economic and environmental benefits,” said Congressman John Olver.

“Infrastructure improvements to the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line will strengthen passenger rail service, create new jobs, and build more livable communities in the North Central region as we continue to focus on regional economic growth opportunities,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “Thanks to Congressman Olver and our partners on the federal level for this stimulus award that will provide assistance to support strategic, long-term investments for the Commonwealth.”

“This customer-focused project is the first step in a larger project to increase capacity on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line,” said Jeffrey B. Mullan, Secretary and CEO of MassDOT. “It is a critical first step in modernizing the state’s oldest commuter rail line and improving service reliability to commuters who travel the 50-mile long corridor between Fitchburg and Boston.”

“Improving service on the Fitchburg line and reducing commuting time for constituents using the Shirley, Littleton, Ayer and South Acton train stations has been a top priority of mine since I first entered the Legislature in 2002. These improvements will foster economic development in the area, and make using the commuter rail a faster, more pleasant experience for my constituents,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge. “I want to thank Governor Patrick and our Congressional delegation for their help in securing the funding for this project.”

“This project dates back to the early 90’s when I was an Aide where I was fortunate to work with both my predecessors on this project. This ceremony symbolizes many years of hard work and dedication by all members of this delegation. We have always kept this project in the forefront of every discussion on Beacon Hill. This is a very proud day for the region,” said Senator Jennifer Flanagan.

“This demonstrates the extraordinary commitment that Congressman Olver has provided to the people of the North County. The enhancements to this public transportation system will provide a more fluid and rapid travel process both to and from Boston,” said Representative Stephen DiNatale.

“In addition to providing critical jobs during a difficult economic time this project will better serve my constituents by providing a more efficient and reliable commute. Investing in our public transportation infrastructure aids not only in the economic vitality of a region, but also allows residents to choose an environmentally friendly alternative to driving. It is a win – win for my district and the Commonwealth,” said Representative Jennifer Benson.

Funded with ARRA funds provided through the Federal Transit Administration, the project will have immediate economic impacts and lay the groundwork for improvements to track capacity and service reliability. When complete, the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line Improvement Project will provide modernized, state-of-the-art infrastructure allowing 80 mile-per-hour travel speeds along the line, up to 12% better on-time performance and reduced operating and maintenance costs.

In November, Secretary Mullan and MBTA Acting General Manager Bill Mitchell announced the hiring of a diverse group of 15 employees with ARRA funds to support this project. The 15 Track Laborer jobs involve work relative to the construction of the track and right of way projects as part of the larger Fitchburg project to modernize the existing commuter rail line along the 50-mile corridor from Fitchburg to Boston. MBCR operates and maintains the commuter rail network under contract with the MBTA.

The Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line has the oldest infrastructure in the MBTA system. It also is the longest in terms of both distance and travel time and serves a region with limited commuter options.

Infrastructure investments are critical components of Governor Patrick’s Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:

•Deliver immediate relief by investing in the road, bridge and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
•Build a better tomorrow through education and infrastructure investments that strengthen our economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future and support clean energy, broadband and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
•Reform state government by eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.

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