Ridin' the Rails | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Ridin' the Rails

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The State of Vermont is trying to resurrect its rural railroad system, and Bernie Sanders is providing senatorial CPR.

Sanders squeezed an amendment into the U.S. Senate's recently approved Amtrak reauthorization bill, which would free up federal funding for the railroad, that encourages "the purchase of environmentally sensitive, fuel-efficient and cost-effective passenger rail equipment."

The bill, which cleared the Senate in a 70-22 vote on October 30, would authorize $11.44 billion for Amtrak through 2012 if signed into law. Sanders' amendment would give grant applicants who plan on developing environmentally conscious rail projects a better shot at the cash.

Vermont is already in the midst of a $30 million pilot program known as the Gateway Rural Improvement Project that is aimed at demonstrating the benefits of a rural rail corridor. GRIP could benefit from the amendment in the form of capital equipment purchases, says Sanders spokesman Will Wiquist.

"It's an opportunity for Vermont to take advantage of possible federal funding," continues Wiquist. "It helps Vermont, potentially, and it helps the nation move in a way [Sanders] wants the country to move."

The federal bill was referred to the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on October 31.

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