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Connecticut Officials Announce TIGER Grant for New England Central Rail

September 9, 2014
Press Release

Freight Line awarded $8.2 million for critical upgrades to connect New London, Norwich, Willimantic, Stafford to Canadian border

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Joe Courtney, Governor Dannel Malloy, and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy announced that the state of Connecticut’s application for an $8.2 million federal grant to upgrade the New England Central Rail (NECR) line was approved. The grant, awarded through the highly competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, stood out from the pool of 797 applications seeking $9.5 billion from the program, a total of 15 times more than the $600 million budget of the TIGER program this round.

 “This is a big win for eastern Connecticut. Expanding freight rail capacity will help grow the Port of New London, which is underutilized as a commercial shipping hub, and connect towns and businesses through Norwich, Franklin, Willimantic and north to Stafford. The broad base of community support and advocacy for this project set it above other applications in this extremely competitive grant round. I was very glad to advocate for such a strong application that will make a tremendous impact on the eastern Connecticut economy. The ardent support of local officials and business leaders, as well as Governor Malloy, helped to produce this excellent outcome. I look forward to seeing this project move forward in the near future,” Courtney said.

"This project reinforces our commitment to modernizing Connecticut's rail infrastructure by finally linking us with the national freight rail network," said Governor Malloy.  "By moving this project forward, we will provide additional shipping capacity, increase mobility for goods, reduce transportation costs and roadway congestion, all of which will help our economy and create jobs.  I thank Secretary Foxx, Representative Courtney and our state's entire Congressional delegation for their support of this project."

“This grant is a huge game changer, revolutionizing rail transportation in eastern Connecticut,” said Blumenthal. “This federal investment creates the first and only north-south heavy freight rail corridor in the state, linking New London’s successful deep water port with key economic development opportunities and destinations in eastern Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Quebec. A robust New England Central Railroad Line will spur investment in the entire region, growing jobs, and revitalizing underused brownfield sites and vacant industrial properties throughout the region. A modern, enhanced NECR line will also provide future opportunities to expand needed passenger rail service in eastern Connecticut. As chair of the Senate Surface Transportation subcommittee, I will continue to champion safe, reliable and modern transportation infrastructure for both passenger and freight as one of the most important investments we can make to support and sustain economic development.”

“This is a great, great day for Eastern Connecticut,” Senator Murphy said. “The region's economy relies on dependable freight rail, but its rail system is badly outdated. Frankly, this state of disrepair has been holding the region back for too long. This project will make the improvements that Eastern Connecticut’s rail system desperately needs, and will help local manufacturers move goods faster and more efficiently between our smaller towns and the larger economic centers. The funding will also make better use of the Port of New London, which can be maximized as an economic asset for the region with proved freight rail service. Ultimately, and most importantly, that means more jobs in Eastern Connecticut. That's why the delegation and Governor Malloy put up a hard fight for this money.”

"This award is a tremendous step forward for Connecticut and its employers that need competitive, efficient and safe rail freight transportation. Securing this grant has been a great effort by all those involved," said Ray Goss, President, NECR.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s NECR project will upgrade the existing rail line to meet new freight standards, including increased weight capacity. Since the Connecticut segment of NECR currently does not meet this standard and customers are forced to partially load railcars or ship via other means. By upgrading 19 miles of outdated jointed rail now in service through Franklin, Norwich, Stafford, and Willimantic, Connecticut’s section of the line will be brought up to the national standard. This project will also upgrade the route with the installation of over 15,000 new ties, and 15,000 tons of ballast through all of the towns along the route from New London to Stafford Springs. The estimated cost of this work is roughly $10.3 million with G&W private match totaling $2 million and the remaining amount requested through TIGER.

The NECR corridor runs from the deep water port of New London to the Vermont-Canadian border.  The line currently connects businesses with shipping options for raw materials and finished products via freight rail to all four eastern Class I railroads at Palmer, MA, as well as providing on-dock connections at New London to ocean and barge vessels. The northern portion of the line, through Vermont, was funded using a $50 million Recovery Act grant, to increase the line’s capacity to the 286,000 lb. national standard.  In addition to Vermont’s upgrades, Massachusetts has begun to take steps to raise money for upgrades on its segment of NECR.  Ensuring that our segment of the line is upgraded to meet the needs of the corridor is paramount to fully utilizing the line.