Connecticut is set to receive nearly $2 billion in federal funding to repair bridges and update aging infrastructure that serve major rail lines along Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor and other regional train services.
The Federal Railroad Administration selected 10 projects across the state for rehabilitation and modernization through the bipartisan infrastructure law that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021.
Amtrak sought greater annual funding from Congress, warning of potential disruptions to services and raising concerns about the need for updating crumbling infrastructure. Some bridges with rail service in Connecticut have needed updates or replacements for years to fix deteriorating conditions.
The money for some of Connecticut’s projects is part of a larger tranche of $16.4 billion announced by the Biden administration on Monday for rail projects along the Northeast Corridor that shuttle passengers between Boston and Washington, D.C.
“This grant fundings helps address a backlog of major projects and improvements that will help improve the safety and reliability of rail service, offer operational flexibility and provide for increased capacity, speed, and efficiencies of rail transportation along the Northeast Corridor,” Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said in a statement.
Gov. Ned Lamont credited the efforts of both the Biden administration and Connecticut’s congressional delegation in securing the transportation funding for a state and region that heavily relies upon rail, especially for commuting.
Nearly half of the money — about $827 million — is going toward the Connecticut River Bridge, a 116-year old bridge used by Amtrak’s main line and intercity services as well as Connecticut Shore Line East and freight trains.
The funding will help to replace it with a new moveable bridge that connects Old Saybrook and Old Lyme. The project, which is slated to begin construction in 2024, will allow trains to operate at higher speeds on the bridge, up to 70 mph.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, noted that the current bridge was deemed “structurally deficient” in 2006. For the past few years, Courtney and other lawmakers in the state’s delegation have pushed for increasing funding to help with repairing the bridge in his district.
“Today’s announcement of an additional $826 million federal grant ensures that the entire construction phase will be fully funded, and not delayed any more by incremental piecemeal grants,” Courtney said in a statement. “When this new bridge is finished, rail traffic will be safer and faster, for passengers on the Northeast Corridor-Acela Express, Northeast Regional, and Shoreline East, as well as freight traffic.”
The new grants will also help with bridge replacements in a few other areas of the state.
The WALK Bridge will get $465 million to replace the existing railroad bridge in Norwalk that is part of the Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
The Devon Bridge, also known as the Washington Bridge, secured $245 million for its replacement project, as well as another $119 million for interim repairs until the rehabilitation begins. That bridge, which has gotten further financial commitments from the Federal Railroad Administration, carries thousands of people per day between the New Haven line and the Northeast Corridor.
And the Saugatuck River Bridge will also get $23.2 million for its replacement project of its moveable bridge in Westport. Those changes are expected to improve safety and also allow trains to operate at maximum authorized speed.
Connecticut’s rail grants will also help with various repair projects on the New Haven Line and Hartford Line.
A total of more than $213 million will go toward replacements of power equipment, project development of track improvements on some parts of the route and security infrastructure upgrades on the New Haven Line.
And the Hartford Line will secure nearly $105 million to expand three sections to double tracks to increase speed and passenger rail service for Connecticut and other states around New England.
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail line in the nation, and improvements here mean more jobs, continued economic growth, and improved quality of life,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “Many of our railroad bridges are more than 100 years old, and this major investment of funding ensures that trains can operate with higher speeds and fewer disruptions well into the future.”
The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.