Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced Connecticut has formally submitted its application to the Federal Rail Administration for a $220 million grant for construction work on the long-planned New Haven-Hartford-Springfield, Massachusetts high-speed commuter rail line – the capstone project in the Governor’s efforts to improve the state’s overall transportation network.
The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) line will eventually extend to Vermont and on to Montreal. Today’s application includes a letter of support from Governor Rell as well as the backing of 20 members of Congress from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.
A separate letter of support co-signed by Governor Rell, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Vermont Governor Jim Douglas will be submitted separately.
“This is more than a transportation project – it is an essential investment in the economic, environmental and social future of this state and the region,” Governor Rell said. “It will pay dividends to generations of travelers, open new pathways to economic development and educational attainment, enhance freight options, reduce congestion and help to remove the negative environmental effects of thousands of automobiles on the Interstate 91 corridor.
“Indeed, the positive effects of this project are limited only by our imagination,” the Governor said. “Its prospects for job growth, new prosperity and new opportunity are tremendous.”
The state Bond Commission is expected to approve $260 million in state funding for the project when it meets August 11. Governor Rell noted in today’s application that the state’s commitment is well above the 20 percent state match required under the federal guidelines and demonstrates Connecticut’s intense interest in the project.
That interest was further underscored by a meeting held in Governor Rell’s office in April with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Accompanied by Governor Rell, U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut U.S. Reps. John B. Larson and Rosa DeLauro and transportation officials from Connecticut and Massachusetts, Secretary LaHood first rode an Amtrak conference car along the rail corridor from New Haven to Hartford, then met in the Governor’s office with legislators and other leaders from both states to discuss the NHHS project.
Afterward, Secretary LaHood told reporters: “Connecticut has its act together.”
“Those were wonderful words to hear from the Secretary – and we have very high hopes for this application,” Governor Rell said today. “We believe high-speed rail is the most important step forward for transportation since the creation of the interstate highway system. We have made a point of developing this project together – working collaboratively at every stage with the other states, our partners at Amtrak and with state and local officials up and down the line. All of us share a vision for the potential and promise of this project.”
“Few places in the country offer the opportunity that this project does,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Jeffrey A. Parker in a letter of support accompanying the application. “It is the key to unlocking New England and realizing the potential of all the other projects that have been proposed for the region. The Northeast region, especially Connecticut, already has the foundation for the integration and enhanced connectivity among intercity rail, public transportation and airports. Travelers who are encouraged to divert from present modes to another mode will do so when they perceive that their travel times can be faster and service more reliable.”
The federal and state funding will be used to “double-track” the existing rail route so that trains can easily run in both directions without interference. The route must also be electrified so that the trains can be run without using diesel locomotives.
Plans for the line call for bidirectional service between New Haven and Springfield running Monday-through-Friday on a 30-minute peak period schedule, which would be a major boost for Connecticut commuters and ease congestion on I-91. The current proposal would also add several new stations and enhance the Windsor Locks station with a bus connection to Bradley International Airport.
Earlier this year, Connecticut received $40 million in federal funding for the construction of double-tracking on a 10-mile stretch between Newington and Berlin. That funding was augmented by $26 million from the Bond Commission.
It is expected that the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line will:
- Reduce the number of vehicles on roads by approximately 4,000 cars each day
- Increase the connectivity of rail and bus systems at all train stations, including the proposed Hartford-New Britain Busway
- Foster better linkages between Bradley International Airport and the region
- Generate close to 4,000 jobs
- Create opportunities for transit-oriented development at rail stations along the line
- Save 1 billion gallons of fossil fuel annually
- Reduce carbon emissions by over 10,000 tons a year