MONTPELIER — The state has received $2 million to improve safety along a stretch of rail in Northfield where an Amtrak train partially derailed three years ago.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation announced Tuesday the $2,082,519 award, which comes from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program.
Dan Delabruere, rail and aviation program manager for the Agency of Transportation, said Tuesday the work to be done involves moving ledge away from the tracks in five locations, upgrading two culverts, and installing sensors that detect rockslides.
The partial derailment in October 2015 injured seven people. No one was killed. The incident was caused by a rockslide.
Delabruere said it will be about a year before any work begins. Accepting the grant is a process that takes several months and is designed to ensure the funds are spent correctly. There’s also design work that needs to be done.
He said the ledge clearing shouldn’t interrupt service. If improving the culverts requires digging them up, which might not be necessary, that might interrupt service but that won’t be known until the design work is complete. The rockslide sensors, he said, are fences that electronically detect when something is up against them.
The owner of the track, New England Central Railroad, will manage the project, said Delabruere, with the AOT having oversight.
“Obviously any time the state can do something to make the track safer, it’s appreciated,” said Jeff Schulz, Northfield town manager.
He said town emergency services were dispatched to handle the partial derailment. Northfield was compensated $19,972 by Amtrak, he said. According to the AOT, the total cost of the incident was $10 million.
“Congress has made a priority of infrastructure investments that improve rail safety, including here in Vermont,” said Vermont’s Congressional delegation — Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch — in a joint statement. “This investment will lessen travel times and delays on The Vermonter, a step that is important to our shared goal of growing passenger rail ridership.”
The grant program the money comes from had a total of $592.5 million put into it by the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act, an increase of $524.5 million more than the previous year. Leahy said he included language in the bill that would require 25 percent of that money be put into rural areas.
State officials hailed news of the award.
“Amtrak passengers will not only experience faster travel times but also safer and more comfortable travel,” said Gov. Phil Scott in a release. “The business community will also benefit from the efficiency gained through these safety enhancements.”
He thanked Leahy and the rest of the state’s Congressional delegation.
Vermont Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn was also pleased by the award.
“This project is consistent with our focus on safety and improving our intercity passenger rail services, and I am excited to make these important investments in our state’s rail network,” he said.