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High-Speed Rail Funding: $40 Million Is Just A First Step In Funding Nearly Billion-Dollar Project

DON STACOM

January 30, 2010

HARTFORD - Several leading Connecticut politicians gathered at Union Station Friday to exchange congratulations and celebrate landing $40 million in federal money for high-speed rail.

They didn't mention that they still need about $1 billion more to complete the project.

"We are thrilled with the announcement of $40 million to help us build a commuter rail line between Springfield and New Haven," U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5th District, told a room filled with TV news crews. "This is a landmark day."

Political animosity seemed to vanish during the uncommonly bipartisan news conference: Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Democratic House Speaker Chris Donovan traded praise for each other's work on the project, and Rell proclaimed that U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., deserved boundless credit.

"He has been a godsend," Rell told the audience before turning to Dodd to say, "You really have led the charge."

State leaders and the congressional delegation have worked since last spring to win a share of $8 billion in high-speed rail money, part of the federal economic stimulus plan, that President Barack Obama awarded Thursday.

Connecticut received just $40 million, enough to install a second set of tracks on a 10-mile stretch south of Hartford where Amtrak is frequently delayed by slow-moving freight trains on the single track.

The state estimates that upgrading the entire line to accommodate 110 mph trains could cost $800 million to $1 billion.

Dodd acknowledged that Connecticut will need much more federal assistance over the next couple of years, but called the $40 million a vital down payment.

"I'll be the first to admit that a lot more work needs to be done," Dodd said. "But this puts people to work I'm told there are as many as 400 jobs associated with this."

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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