NEW HAVEN — Investment in high-speed rail — potentially with federal funding — was the focus of discussion today in a meeting between state and Amtrak officials.
“Gov. Ned Lamont, Connecticut Transportation Commission Joseph Giulietti, Amtrak president and CEO Stephen Gardner, and Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia discussed the need to accelerate investment in high-speed rail, leveraging the new federal funds provided by the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act,” said Kafi Rouse, chief communications officer for the state Department of Transportation, in a statement.
The infrastructure law authorized $30 billion in competitive grants that could be used to improve real performance along the Northeast Corridor, according to a release from the Governor’s office.
The release stated that both Governor Lamont’s TIME FOR CT initiative, a plan to bring faster and more frequent train service between Connecticut and New York, and the Northeast Corridor Commission’s CONNECT NEC 2035 (C35) initiative, which aims to improve rail throughout the Northeast, could benefit from robust competitive grant funding.
“The [meeting today] focused on the immediate opportunity to improve travel time on the Connecticut-owned New Haven Line, from New Haven to Greenwich, the slowest segment of the Northeast Corridor between Boston and New York City,” Rouse said.
She said the State of Connecticut and Amtrak had agreed to partner on near-term investments which could include signal system changes, track upgrades, removal of slow orders and other measures.
“These investments will benefit Amtrak and Connecticut commuter train service alike,” she said.
Rouse said today’s meeting did not include status updates on the New Rochelle to Green’s Farm bypass that would run through Fairfield County, nor the Old Saybrook to Kenyon bypass that would travel through historic areas of Old Lyme and preservation land in Charlestown, R.I.
Also not discussed today was the New Haven to Providence market study that Rouse said will be a collaboration among the Northeast Corridor Commission, Amtrak, and the State of Connecticut.
“[The] market study [will] better define ridership opportunities between major city pairs in Connecticut and the region. This foundational work will inform a future transformational plan for high-speed rail and we will be sharing timing as soon as available,” said Rouse.
In an email to CT Examiner, Jason Abrams, a spokesman for Amtrak, said he deferred to Rouse’s statements on the questions of the bypasses and the market study.
The governor’s office did not respond to CT Examiner’s questions about the bypasses and the market study.
In a statement, Lamont called Connecticut’s rail line “the lifeline of the northeast” and said the state has had a successful partnership with Amtrak over the years that it plans to continue. He said he looked forward to working with Gardner, who was appointed to his position on Jan. 17.
Guilietti called Gardner “the right leader for this moment at Amtrak” and said the partnership between Amtrak and the Connecticut Department of Transportation is essential to the future of rail in the state.
Gardner said Amtrak remained committed to ensuring safe and reliable train service while sharing a vision of improved speeds and service expansion.
Jim Gildea, chairman of Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, told CT Examiner that today’s meeting was significant because it was about building relationships between state and Amtrak officials.
“I think the strength of both the Governor and the commissioner is that they are definitely relationship-based leaders. So, I certainly look at them wanting to meet with Amtrak — and our key partnership with them in many different areas — as probably something that is helpful and beneficial.”