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Malloy announces more than $8 million to modernize freight rail system

New London — The state will invest more than $8 million to improve and modernize its freight rail system through grants to four rail companies.

"These projects we're funding today will bolster our ability to move products by making it safer on the rails and on the roads," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday in announcing the grants. "It will also make it faster and more efficient in the delivery of those goods. ... Getting freight off the highways reduces gridlock and air pollution. It improves quality of life in Connecticut as well as meeting clean air, clean water and greenhouse emissions reduction goals."

Malloy was joined at a press conference at the Adm. Harold E. Shear State Pier by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, both of whom said that investing in rail infrastructure is key to improving the state's economy.

Freight rail companies move 8.5 million tons of freight annually through Connecticut on more than 625 miles of track, Malloy said.

The commercial rail lines that will receive the funding are New England Central Railroad, Providence and Worcester Railroad, Naugatuck Railroad and Central New England Railroad.

Courtney said the timing of the state's funding is critical because the rail lines will match the state's funding through a federal investment tax credit that is due to expire at the end of the year.

New London's port is underutilized, the congressman added, and investment in the rail system locally will make the region more attractive to cargo ship and freight companies, which he said will spur job growth and help secure southeastern Connecticut's future.

"Like the governor, I'm a passionate believer that investing in rail both in terms of freight and passenger solves so many problems for our country in terms of economic growth and transportation needs," Courtney said.

Some local and regional advocates for the region's rail system have also been pushing for the Central Corridor Rail Project, a plan to upgrade the existing New England Central Railroad tracks from New London to Brattleboro, Vt., to handle heavier freight traffic and add passenger rail cars.

Redeker said discussions are continuing on that proposed rail project, adding that he views it as a key corridor and part of the DOT's longterm strategy for the state's rail system.

Courtney, who has been a supporter of the Central Corridor Rail Project, said all 50 states are competing for the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The TIGER grants are being used nationwide to expand passenger and freight services. He said Friday's investment shows that the state is serious in investing in its rail system.

"This sends a powerful message to Washington that people in Connecticut are serious about the Central Corridor Rail, and we can actually show real results that demonstrates that the federal government's further investment will really pay off," he said.

i.larraneta@theday.com

Funding for rail improvements

■ New England Central Railroad: $3.6 million to upgrade their mainline track between New London and the Connecticut/Massachusetts state line to accommodate 286,000-pound rail cars.
■ Providence and Worcester Railroad: $759,395 to rehabilitate 26 miles of the Norwich branch line between Plainfield and the Massachusetts state line.
■ Naugatuck Railroad: $1.6 million for the state-owned Torrington Line between Waterbury and Torrington.
■ Central New England Railroad: $2.5 million for track and grade crossing signal improvements between Hartford and Bloomfield on the state-owned Griffin Line.

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