WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday the Federal Railroad Administration announced $16.4 billion of funding for passenger rail projects along the Northeast Corridor, including $827 million to replace the Connecticut River Bridge, and additional funding to reevaluate and finalize high-speed rail options across southeast Connecticut and southern Rhode Island.
The federal funding, provided in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will pay for 25 projects along the Northeast Corridor, including projects to replace or upgrade 12 century-old major bridges and tunnels. Among the projects receiving funding are projects to replace the Devon and Saugatuck River Bridges.
Work on replacing the 116-year-old Connecticut River Bridge with a new bascule bridge is expected to begin in 2024, and will allow trains to traverse the river at 70 mph, according to FRA.
FRA also announced that it will provide Amtrak with $4 million of the $5 million cost of a “New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study” to complete the NEC Future masterplan for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.
The study follows up on the “Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass” proposal for an inland high speed rail route slated between Kingston, R.I. and Old Saybrook that faced multi-state opposition and was set aside in 2017.
The study, which is also a precondition to any major rail improvements between New Haven and Providence region, including electrification of the Hartford Line, by law must “identify on- and off-corridor infrastructure to address the capacity constraints, speed restrictions and flooding vulnerability along the Connecticut and Rhode Island shoreline” according to the five-year-old Record of Decision.
The announcement comes six months after Sen. Chris Murphy warned the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut that high-speed rail would require new track and “dislocation” for communities in the region, but was nevertheless a top priority.
“I believe you’ve got to get the main line right first and that we have to improve the experience and reduce the time that it takes to get from New York to Boston, and that the bulk of our dollars should be going into that project first,” Murphy told audience members. “Because once you get that more reliable and faster, then you’re going to attract a lot more consumers to any branches that you build.”
Murphy said the only way to significantly speed travel along the existing line is to build new track “in places where there isn’t track today.”