Conn. wins $8.2 million to upgrade freight rail
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Eastern Connecticut will receive an $8.2 million federal grant to upgrade freight rail that officials say will spur economic development and drive more traffic through the port of New London.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., called the grant announced on Tuesday a big win that resulted from a “broad base of community support and advocacy.” Elected officials, backed by regional business owners and Genesee & Wyoming Inc., owner of New England Central Railroad, lobbied federal transportation officials for the money.
New England Central is contributing $2 million to the work.
The region’s rail system is “badly outdated,” Sen. Chris Murphy said.
“Frankly, this state of disrepair has been holding the region back for too long,” Murphy said.
The upgrade calls for installing more than 15,000 ties and 15,000 tons of ballast in the towns along the route from New London to Stafford Springs. Following the upgrade, the rail line will meet new freight standards, including increased weight capacity.
The state will upgrade 19 miles of outdated rail through Franklin, Norwich, Stafford and Willimantic.
The town of Palmer, Massachusetts, is backing the rail upgrade in eastern Connecticut to promote a regional north-south freight rail line. Palmer is home to businesses that distribute products delivered by rail and would benefit from an upgraded freight line, town officials have said.
Vermont’s segment of the line also has been upgraded, extending the rail line from Massachusetts to St. Albans. A grant will replace a freight rail line from St. Albans nearly to Canada.
The rail corridor extends from the port of New London, Connecticut’s easternmost outlet to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, to the Vermont-Canadian border. The line connects businesses with shipping options for raw materials and finished products.