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Senate Committee Proposes $4 Million In Funding For High-Speed Rail Service


July 31, 2009

HARTFORD - The campaign to establish high-speed rail service through central Connecticut got a boost Thursday when a key U.S. Senate committee proposed up to $4 million for preliminary work.

"This funding is a down payment on the future of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, who worked to get the money included in the new federal transportation budget.

If that provision stays in the budget that eventually goes to President Barack Obama, it would be the first federal commitment to vastly improving rail service linking Hartford and Springfield with Amtrak's main Boston-to-Washington route.

Connecticut, Massachusetts and Amtrak are trying to land $800 million in federal stimulus grants to upgrade the line so it can accommodate trains running at up to 110 mph.

The news was welcomed by state leaders who want to simultaneously create slower-speed but frequent commuter service on the same tracks.

"Think of the benefits this will bring not only for riders but the development and the jobs for every community along the line," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said.

"These funds set the wheels in motion for the development of viable commuter rail through the heart of our state and region," she said. "Sens. Dodd and [Joseph] Lieberman are leading that effort for us in Washington, and I will continue to lead the effort at the state level to make this a reality."

Rep. David McCluskey, D- West Hartford, a chief advocate of the project, said the Senate Appropriations Committee's vote is substantial progress for a project that has been discussed for years.

"This shows how seriously the congressional delegation and the governor think of this project," McCluskey.

He hopes planning and studies can be expedited, and might cost less than $4 million.

"I want to see money spent on people laying track and installing signals," McCluskey said.

The full Senate must still vote on the budget proposal. It then goes to a joint conference with the House of Representatives before advancing to Obama's desk.

"Moving forward with the development of the rail line is going to require a solid foundation and coordination among states, federal transit and rail agencies, and Amtrak," Dodd said. "These funds will give ConnDOT the additional tools to help build this collaboration."

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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