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New England Governors Support Springfield-New Haven Rail Line


July 14, 2009

HARTFORD - Upgrading Amtrak's line through the center of the state would attract more riders, speed up trips and ensure more trains arrive on time, according to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's application for $800 million in federal stimulus aid.

Rell and the five other New England governors on Monday declared that the central Connecticut route is a key link in their plans to revitalize the region's passenger rail network. "The rail system will provide a foundation for economic competitiveness and promote livable communities," ultimately linking every major city in New England with smaller cities and rural areas, the governors said in a joint statement.

Rell's staff on Friday submitted a proposal to upgrade the 62-mile route from Springfield to New Haven; funding would enable the state to begin mid-speed commuter service and let Amtrak launch high-speed rail service connecting western Massachusetts and central Connecticut to its Boston-to- Washington Acela service.

"Substantial ridership is expected by offering high-speed capability along this heavily populated route due to improved travel times. This service will also provide significant reduction of congestion and carbon emissions, along with economic benefits," James Redeker, a senior manager with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, wrote in a 34-page application. It seeks up to 10 percent of the $8 billion in stimulus grants that President Barack Obama designated for high-speed rail projects.

The Connecticut-Massachusetts projects will have to compete with as many as nine others around the country for a piece of the $8 billion. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, a prominent advocate of commuter rail between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, promised to work with federal transit leaders, the Federal Railroad Administration and Obama's advisers to try to get Connecticut a share of the money.

"We're on the right track," Dodd said.

The FRA will choose projects to fund later this summer.

Adding a second track, building a system of overhead electric lines, installing new signals, rebuilding bridges, improving the rails and straightening curves in the right of way will raise Amtrak's top speed on the route from 80 to 110 mph, Redeker's application said. Work would be done in two stages; the first would raise the average speed of trains from 40 mph to 50 mph, and the second phase would push that up to 60 mph.

The New England governors agreed with Rell that this is one of six essential rail projects in the region. Some of the others would reroute Amtrak's Montrealer service to a more direct and heavily populated corridor in Massachusetts, improve rail service through central New Hampshire, provide a train link to Providence's airport and extend the popular Downeaster line in Vermont by another 30 miles.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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