Rep. Courtney Touts Final Upgrades to New England Central Rail Line as Economic ‘Milestone’ for Eastern Connecticut
WILLIMANTIC, CT – Today, Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02) was joined by officials from Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) for a tour of the final upgrades to the New England Central Rail (NECR). The NECR corridor runs from the deep-water port of New London, CT to the Vermont-Canadian border, and currently connects businesses with shipping options for raw materials and finished products on the United States via freight rail to all four Eastern Class I railroads at Palmer, MA.
Prior to the upgrades, Connecticut’s portion of the rail line did not meet the 286,000-pound national standard for freight rail lines needed to accommodate modern rail cars and freight capacity. In addition, the frailty of the line limited the speed of trains to no more than 25 MPH. However, with the federally supported project now completed, fully-loaded railcars will be able to travel northward at a speed of 40 MPH from the Port of New London all the way to the Vermont-Canada border, opening up new economic opportunities and frontiers for eastern Connecticut and the region.
“Today is a milestone” said Congressman Courtney. “Over the past decade, this region has come together to secure federal funding and make much-needed upgrades to the NECR – a rail line that’s about 100 years old, that until now hasn’t been able to move at high speeds or to tolerate heavier weights. Today, with our colleagues from G&W and CTDOT, we can proudly announce that the upgrade is now complete. It’s a great achievement, and it means great things for our region. These upgrades will improve our freight rail service, will help get big trucks off the road by placing more of that cargo onto rail lines, and will open up new opportunities for growth for the many firms and small businesses here in eastern Connecticut who rely on the NECR to do business. This enhanced freight option will help relieve congested highways, since every freight car holds the equivalent of four tractor trailers carrying comparable weight. We took a ride up the new rail line this morning, and it’s now smooth as silk – no joints, no delays, no ‘clackety-clack’ – just a smooth ride. The new and improved NECR will make a big difference for the economy of our region, and I was proud to help secure the federal TIGER grant that made it happen.”
“Congressman Courtney’s leadership helped us land the federal grant that was necessary to do this,” said Jerry Vest, Senior Vice President of Government & Industry Affairs at G&W. “What we’re really able to do by improving this route is not just take traffic off the road, but to make the companies we serve along the line between here and the Port of New London much more competitive in their marketplaces. It’s going to give them more economical ease to get to and from their markets, and to and from their suppliers. We hope that it will help generate more job growth, more employment, and more opportunities for all of us.”
Efforts to secure federal funding for this project began in 2009. After four unsuccessful attempts to win highly-competative federal infrastructure investment grants, in 2014 Congressman Courtney assembled the support of nearly 50 local and state officials, businesses and business groups, and regional stakeholders in advocating for this initiative. With this broad support backing the Congressman’s discussions with federal officials, this project was selected by the US DOT among 797 application for $8.3 million in federal TIGER grant funds for the purpose of making upgrades to the NECR. The $8.3 million grant was awarded to G&W—the holding company for the NECR and several other short-line freight railroads—through the support of the State of Connecticut. G&W committed to contribute an additional $2 million to the project, which brought the total to $10.3 million. The State of Connecticut had already demonstrated its understanding of the economic imperative of upgrading the NECT line through a $3.6 million Fix Freight First Grant.
The federal TIGER grant is being used to make upgrades that will allow fully-loaded railcars to travel from the Port of New London northward to the Vermont-Canada border. Prior to the upgrades, Connecticut’s portion of the line did not meet the 286,000-pound national standard for freight rail lines needed to accommodate modern rail cars and freight capacity.
To view a list of just some of our regional firms who rely on the NECR to do business, click here.
For an overview of the upgrades made to the NECR thanks to the federal TIGER grant, click here.