WASHINGTON, D.C. — The project to replace the century-old railroad bridge spanning the Connecticut River has received a second federal-state matching grant of up to $65.2 million, chipping away at an estimated cost of $400 million.
Amtrak and the Connecticut Department of Transportation will provide a 38 percent match, bringing the total to more than $100 million toward the project, which received its first tranche of $65.2 million in fiscal year 2020. The grants are provided by the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.
Construction is slated to begin in Q1 of calendar year 2024 and is expected to be completed in fiscal year 2029, with a total duration of 68 months from Notice to Proceed, according to Jason Abrams, spokesperson for Amtrak, in an email to CT Examiner.
The 115-year old bridge, crossing between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, will remain operational while a new bascule bridge is constructed 52 feet south of the original, providing additional vertical clearance for maritime traffic.
“The Connecticut River Bridge Replacement Project will enhance this asset’s reliability and long-term serviceability for another 150 years, ensure continued intercity passenger, commuter rail, and freight rail operations along the Northeast Corridor, and alleviate speed and travel delays for rail and maritime traffic,” said Abrams.
The bridge, owned by Amtrak, serves the Northeast Corridor — stretching from Washington, D.C., to Boston — and includes service for Connecticut Shore Line East commuter trains, Amtrak and freight operators. According to a release, the corridor is traveled by 350 daily commuter trains and 60 Amtrak trains.
Abrams said the Federal Railroad Administration completed an environmental review satisfying the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact in January 2017.
Since its fiscal year 2020 Partnership Program application, said Abrams, Amtrak has advanced the project from 60% design to 90% design, with final design completion expected in Spring 2022.
He said that in fiscal year 2023, Amtrak plans to finalize design, submit for the requisite permits, procure a construction contractor and obtain approvals under NEPA as well as the State Historic Preservation Office.
Abrams said the project will contribute to Amtrak’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals to reduce carbon emissions 40% by 2030 “through ensuring a long-lasting, competitive alternative on the NEC to traveling by motor vehicle or flight.”
Maximum train speeds will increase from 45 mph on the current bridge to 70 mph on the new one, according to a release.
Under the Partnership Program, a matching grant of up to $20 million was also awarded to replace two power substations along the New Haven rail line, requiring a 50 percent match from Amtrak and CTDOT.
The substations are used for converting utility power for the railroad signaling system and have not been repaired or renovated since the 1980s. They will provide more reliability, energy efficiency, lower maintenance costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, according to a release.
“Amtrak is grateful to the FRA for awarding two grants totaling more than $85 million to fund critical infrastructure projects on the Northeast Corridor in the state of Connecticut – the New Haven Line Power Program and Connecticut River Bridge,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President, Strategy, Planning & Accessibility Dennis Newman, in a release. “The funding from these grants will help modernize the infrastructure in the state and improve the reliability of both commuter and intercity train services to provide a better travel experience for Connecticut residents and visitors.”
The Infrastructure Law, signed by President Joe Biden, expands the funding, scope, and vision of the Federal Railroad Administration’s enhanced Federal State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program and increases funding to an unprecedented $7.2 billion annually for the next five years, according to a release.
Eleven projects in eight states will receive more than $233 million through the program. A full list of projects can be found here.