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related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.

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Recovery Grant Funds Amtrak Renovations

Rail Cars
Amtrak passenger cars get refurbished.

​Amtrak has almost completed 154 projects that were funded by a $1.3 billion Recovery grant awarded by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The projects included an array of long-needed improvements, enhancements, and repairs; one completed project has already won a prestigious international award.

DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration specified that the Recovery grant was to be used for capital investment. Accordingly, Amtrak allocated funds to five overall categories:

  • Station work
  • Equipment overhaul
  • Infrastructure (mainly track) improvements
  • Security enhancements
  • Maintenance


Wilmington station
Amtrak's renovated station in Wilmington, Delaware has won a Brunel Award for design.

Renovation of the Wilmington, Delaware train station posed the challenge of modernizing the 100-plus-year-old facility while retaining its historic Victorian-style architecture. The project included detailed restoration to various parts of the station, including the grand staircase in the lobby and the historic waiting rooms on the second floor. A larger concourse, a new passenger information display system, new LED lighting, and a more energy-efficient heating/cooling system are among the many changes incorporated into the station.

Soon after renovations were complete in March 2011, the station won a prestigious Brunel Award from the Association of American Railroads and the International Union of Railways. The annual Brunel competition “recognizes and promotes the best in railway architecture, engineering, landscape and environmental design, product design, locomotive and car design, graphic arts, and corporate branding amongst the world’s railways,” the award announcement said.

Niantic Bridge
Constructing the new drawbridge over the Niantic River in Connecticut.

Replacement of another century-old structure, the Niantic River Bridge in Connecticut between East Lyme and Waterford, has been among Amtrak’s most complex Recovery projects. The Niantic Bridge is one of the oldest moveable bridges in the country, built in 1907 and in continuous operation since as a key link for passenger and freight rail traffic between New York and Boston. Because it was not economical to repair the bridge, it required full replacement to provide reliable rail operation.

An entirely new, two-track drawbridge is under construction 58 feet south of the original bridge. Tracks leading to and from the old bridge on both sides have had to be realigned to the new one, and vertical under-clearance above the water is being increased from 11.5 feet to 16 feet. Retaining walls are also being built. The Niantic Bridge replacement is one of about a half-dozen Amtrak projects still underway but nearing completion. Officials expect the new bridge to be in service this fall, at which point the old bridge will be removed.

The Recovery grant further allowed Amtrak to refurbish and return to service 60 corridor cars, 20 long-distance cars, and 15 locomotives that had been in storage. Also, Amtrak was able to build two new maintenance facilities – one in Hialeah, Florida, the other in Los Angeles.

Amtrak reports that ridership is up 3.7% for the period of October 2011 through March 2012, and officials say the rail line could not support its current level of ridership without the 80 cars and 15 locomotives now back in service.

(All photos courtesy of the Department of Transportation)

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