Connecticut could receive $30 million of the more than $2 billion in federal rail funding rejected by the state of Florida and intends to invest the money in the construction of the state’s planned New Haven-Hartford-Springfield intercity high-speed and commuter rail line.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the award that although welcome is significantly less than the Gov. Dannel P. Malloy sought in an application he submitted to the Federal Rail Road Administration in April. Despite this, state officials hailed the news as a “win” Monday that moves the project that much closer to its targeted operational date of 2016.
“This is a significant step forward for Connecticut when it comes to strengthening our transportation infrastructure, which for too long has been neglected and had the wrong kind of impact on our economy,” Malloy, a Democrat, said in a release Monday. “…The rail project will form the backbone of an interconnected, regional rail network linking key economic centers through the northeast corridor. Supporting up to 50 daily passenger trains and reaching speeds up to 110 miles an hour, this line will provide some of the best rail service in the nation.”
State officials are hoping that the 62-mile rail line would revive a long under utilized rail corridor connecting Springfield, MA, to New Haven, with trains running as often as every 30 minutes during peak hours. The line would have 12 stops, including the communities of Windsor and Windsor Locks (Enfield is also being studied as a potential stop along the line), and would feature high-speed rail as well as commuter service along the corridor.
Although the line would function primarily as a commuter service through central Connecticut, it qualifies for federal money earmarked for high-speed rail transportation because high-speed trains running from New York to Vermont and Montreal would also use the line.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said that in addition to the $30 million in funding received by Connecticut, other states including New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine also received funding totaling more than $100 million. Amtrak will receive $795 million for its Northeast Corridor to help increase speeds, improve on-time performance and add seats to one of the nation’s most heavily congested rail corridors.
“This is a major win for the region and its long-term vision for rail service,” Nursick said by e-mail. “Including this $30 million, Connecticut has received $191 million in federal funding for this project, and the state has committed another $286 million in bonding. That is $477 million for a project expected to cost $583 million.”
Nursick said state officials were preparing a meeting with FRA representatives in the coming weeks to discuss “next steps” in the project, including whether any additional federal funding might be available.
Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted nearly 100 applications seeking some portion of the $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for construction of a Tampa Bay-to-Orlando high speed rail line . Rick Scott, Florida’s Republican governor, said he was rejecting the money because the line’s projected ridership numbers were “overly-optimistic” and it would ultimately end up costing Florida taxpayers money.
The FRA selected projects in 15 states and Amtrak to receive Florida's rejected money.
"Earlier this year, President Obama and I made a commitment to improve and expand America's transportation system, including the development of a modern, national high-speed rail network," Vice President Joe Biden said in a release Monday announcing the awards. "And today, we’re announcing investments that will continue our progress toward making this vision a reality. These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and railcars.”