BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont's high speed rail project will get additional money after two other states elected not to accept their portions of federal stimulus grants.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday that Vermont would receive a portion of the $1.2 billion that the newly elected Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have turned down.
Vermont will get an additional $2.7 million, after receiving $50 million in October to pay for upgrades to the Vermonter line that runs from St. Albans to Vernon.
Vermont's Congressional delegation last week sent a letter to LaHood, asking that the U.S. Department of Transportation pass on some of the funding to the state after the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin said they would not accept the stimulus money.
The Vermont lawmakers were hoping that the state's Western Corridor project would receive the money, but the transportation department said no new projects would be funded with the rejected money.
"We welcome this additional investment in Vermont's growing network of high-speed rail lines. Our state is always ready, willing and able to put these funds to good use," Sens. Leahy, Sanders and Rep. Welch said in a joint statement. "At the same time, we are highly disappointed that the Western Corridor project did not receive the funding it deserves. We will continue our efforts to fight for this project, which has the strong support of state officials, the business
The high speed rail project kicked off in St. Albans last month, and Vermont Agency of Transportation Rail Director Joe Flynn said the additional money will help the state meet the financial obligations of the project.
"We originally asked for $52.7 million, and now it appears as though they are going to give us the rest of what we asked for out of the money that was rejected by the other two states," said Flynn. "This money will now fully fund the project."
The stimulus money will pay for new track that will allow trains to travel up to 59 miles per hour, and up to 79 miles per hour.
The upgrades are expected to cut about an hour off of the train ride through Vermont and Massachusetts.
Earlier this year Wisconsin was awarded $810 million for the Milwaukee-Madison corridor while Ohio's Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland route was in line to get $400 million.
Fourteen states shared in the redirected money Thursday, with California receiving up to $624 million and Florida getting $342.3 million.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.