STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont announced a plan for faster rail service in the state Monday. State and transportation officials said the multi-billion dollar investment program “TIME FOR CT” will ultimately save commuters 82 hours a year.
A study team reviewed every trip on the New Haven line and met with Metro-North and Amtrak to learn insights into the day-to-day operations.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti said, “We’ve gone inch-by-inch over this railroad.”
They found, with investment in infrastructure and the rail fleet, the plan illustrates that future super-express service will reduce travel times by 10 minutes by 2022 and save people up to 25 minutes by 2035. It will do this by using existing assets and staying within the existing right of way, which means no new rail building.
Instead, curves in the track from New Haven to Grand Central will be straightened out, and there will be an increase in speed and signalization.
That’s good news for Russell Kazmierczak a U.S. Navy Veteran living in Stratford. When he isn’t riding his green moped around town, he takes the train from Stratford to West Haven.
“I go to the VA hospital for my doctor’s appointments and Emergency and it works,” said Kazmierczak.
State Representative Roland Lamar (D-New Haven), Democratic chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, said it’s now or never.
“We’re taking advantage of this opportunity and we’re going to move forward,” said State Rep. Lamar.
The program will require capital investment of between $8-10-billion over 15 years. With funding, the plan can improve needs, frequency, and reliability throughout the state.
A new train app just the start. State Senator Will Haskell (D), Co-chair of the Transportation Committee, has it on his phone.
“It tells you which car actually has the most seating capacity so there are already improvements happening,” Senator Haskell said.
Governor Ned Lamont’s first campaign promise: speed trains up.
“We can make a difference tomorrow by starting today,” announced Lamont.
Additional benefits of the plan include:
- Reduce impacts of climate change by attracting more people out of their cars
- Improve the resiliency of the New Haven Line
- Provide a new fleet for faster trip times and an improved passenger experience
- Improve access to education, jobs and urban centers
- Support economic recovery from COVID through improved service
- Generate an estimated 45,000 direct construction jobs over 15 years
“There are climate benefits at play here as well. More frequent and faster rail service will get people out of their cars, reducing highway congestion and greenhouse gas emissions at the same time,” said Catherine Rinaldi, president of MTA Metro-North Railroad.
Gov. Lamont spoke about the highway user fee on trucks that was just passed in the legislature. That’s expected to raise money to go into the special transportation fund, which will help pay a portion of what Connecticut will owe the federal government to do some of these upgrades.
“We’re going to get $90-million a year in additional resources. We’ll be able to leverage that,” Lamont said.
If there’s not enough money over the next 10 years, Gov. Lamont says he will go back to the legislature to talk about ideas. He said he is not interested in talking about tolls. Republicans say they have a plan to use some of the paydown on pensions to help leverage money to go into infrastructure like trains.
Infighting in Washington D.C. around climate change and an increase in the gas tax is complicating things.
U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, acknowledges the conflict. “Yes, there will be bumps, etc. along the road.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal representing Connecticut sums it up like this: “If we don’t invest now we’re going to pay a lot more later.”
To get back on track in Connecticut if there is disagreement in Washington, Governor Lamont may have to look to the legislature. But he admits he will steer away from tolls. The Department of Transportation Commissioner, however, doesn’t rule out increased fares.
“It’s something we have to consider as we’re looking for how do we pay for things going forward but there is nothing right now that we have discussed in terms of changing that,” said Giulietti.
Republicans said to revisit their plan, FASTER CT; it pays down debt.
Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly explained, “Then taking the savings on the debt service and investing that into transportation that’s the way we got around tolls.”
Also part of the equation, 45,000 construction jobs to help fix the tracks and upgrade bridges.