BOSTON, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ -– The New England Governors today announced they are working together on a coordinated regional vision for high speed rail that will connect major cities and airports, and support economic growth throughout the region. The Vision for the New England High Speed and Intercity Rail Network lays out key projects to strengthen passenger and freight rail service along new and existing rail corridors. The goal is to double passenger rail ridership in the Northeast by 2030.

The New England Governors have asked their Transportation chiefs to meet regularly with the New England Congressional delegation and work to advance their rail initiatives with coordinated applications for high speed rail grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), while also pursuing other federal funding opportunities.

“By investing in a strengthened high speed rail network we will be supporting economic development and smart growth, connecting our vibrant urban areas, and providing people with the opportunity to move more quickly throughout the New England region,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Last week, Governor Patrick and Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi, Jr. met with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Washington, D.C. to discuss the regional high speed rail vision and Massachusetts’ commitment to passenger and freight rail improvements. The states have already submitted pre-applications as part of ARRA’s competitive grant process. In August, the states will meet in Vermont at a high speed rail summit to continue their push for a strong high speed rail network in New England.

“Developing and implementing a regional rail strategy is critical to New England in the short and long term,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray. “Right now we have an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate with our neighbor states and the federal government to make this plan a reality.”

“Our collective goal is to dramatically expand passenger and freight rail in the region to spark economic growth and support livable communities,” said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi, Jr. “Working together we can build off existing rail infrastructure to create the nation’s strongest rail network.”

The six key projects in the states’ vision are:

•The Downeaster service which operates on a route included in the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor between Boston and Portland is a national model for the successful introduction of new intercity passenger rail service. The states along the Downeaster Route are working together to improve the infrastructure with the goal of reducing the travel time between Boston and Portland to two hours and increasing capacity to support 7 daily round trips.

•New Hampshire’s Capital corridor will create easily accessible passenger rail service for more than 500,000 residents of Southern New Hampshire with stops in the cities of Concord, Manchester, Nashua and Boston. The rail line will also stop at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, creating a much-needed connection for tourists and travelers from across northern New England. Eventually, this service will extend north to White River Junction, VT and to Montreal fulfilling the vision of this designated High-Speed Rail Corridor.

•Vermont’s Western Corridor will provide direct service down the western side of the state connecting Burlington, Rutland, and Bennington with Albany and New York City via the Empire Corridor.

•Massachusetts will return the Vermonter to its original route through western Massachusetts via the Knowledge Corridor. This effort, supported by the State of Vermont, is a vivid example of the ongoing collaboration of two states working together to improve service and increase the number of rail passengers. The Knowledge Corridor between Springfield and White River Junction provides connection between the Boston to New Haven and the Boston to Montreal legs of the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor.

•Through Connecticut’s leadership, the group will work double track and replace bridges on the Springfield Line that serves the cities of New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield in order to provide the foundation for the larger rail network. Expanded train service will provide key connections between New York City, Bradley International Airport and will allow further development of the inland high speed rail line between Boston and New York.

•Providing the connection between Providence and Boston to TF Green Airport in Rhode Island via the Northeast Corridor as well as enhancing passenger service south of Providence will build on the long term transportation partnership between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In addition, Rhode Island is working with Amtrak on capacity improvements along the Northeast Corridor in Southern Rhode Island that will permit bi-directional overtakes for intercity passenger rail, benefiting all users of the corridor while providing for future commuter rail infrastructure at Kingston Station.
Massachusetts will continue its investment in the South Coast Rail project and continues to be supportive of building a connection between the North and South regional rail networks. Other projects the states will pursue include the development of corridor plans for the Boston to New Haven and Boston to Montreal segments of the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor via the Inland Route through Worcester and Springfield. The Inland Route is also important as New England’s largest freight rail corridor. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts will develop corridor plans for the northern half of the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor, which extends from Boston to Portland and beyond and from Boston through Concord, NH, Vermont and terminating in Montreal.

“Intercity rail projects are exactly the kind of investments we should be making. They put people back to work and stimulate the economy, as well as reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality,” said Senator Edward Kennedy. “I’m pleased that the New England states are working together to propose these projects to the Administration, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the region to advocate for the New England regional rail plan.”

“The need for a world class high-speed rail in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast region could not be more clear. It’ll drastically improve our severely overcrowded highways, reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again. That is why I pushed to have $8 billion for high-speed rail included in the Recovery Act and will continue to find additional funding sources beginning with the reintroduction of the High Speed Rail for America Act. The New England plan will put us one step closer to making high-speed rail a reality. I applaud Governor Patrick and his administration, as well as the other New England Governors, for their efforts and commitment to this issue,” said Senator John Kerry.

“A regional approach to high speed rail is essential. Linking central Massachusetts and the SouthCoast with the Northeast Corridor will benefit both passenger and freight rail services,” said Congressman Jim McGovern.

“Investment in passenger and high speed rail will help stimulate economic growth in the region, create more jobs and promote a cleaner environment. It would directly connect western and central Massachusetts to the major cities of New England. Expanding our rail network has the potential of transforming the region and addressing our transportation needs for the 21st Century. I thank Governor Patrick for his leadership and look forward to working with him to help make this plan a reality,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

“I applaud the collaborative efforts of the New England Governors to expand and improve our regional rail services which would relieve congestion on our roadways, greatly enhance our transportation infrastructure, and create local jobs,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “I look forward to working with the members of the New England Congressional delegation in support of this initiative.”

“New England is the most densely populated region in the country. Strengthening passenger and freight rail service will make a tremendous impact on reducing congestion on our roads,” Congressman John Olver said. “A regional plan will ensure that we are working toward this goal in a thoughtful, coordinated manner to achieve maximum benefit from our investments.”

For decades the New England states have successfully worked through the Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG) to promote promoting passenger rail service in the Northeast. The completion for the electrification of the Northeast Corridor in 2000 is a prime example of the successful long term advocacy for passenger rail. The development of the Northern New England High Speed Rail Corridor will fill in the gaps of the region’s network and be a critical element in achieving the Northeast Governors’ goal to double passenger ridership in the northeast corridor by 2030.