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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Shore Line East proposed for expansion under long-term transit plan

    Groton — The commissioner for the state Department of Transportation said Thursday that investments in rail will be key for eastern Connecticut, as well as other parts of the state.

    James P. Redeker spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's 30-year transportation proposal and his 5-year transportation plan. His presentation on the long-term plan, which calls for $100 billion in investments, highlighted proposed upgrades to bridges, highways, rail, ports and Bradley International Airport. Malloy has formed a committee to consider how to fund the long-term improvements.

    "This program calls for expanding Shore Line East significantly," Redeker said at the chamber's business breakfast event at Groton Inn and Suites.

    The plan proposes expanding the commuter rail service by adding more electric trains to New York and extending service to Rhode Island, he said. 

    Shore Line East, a commuter rail line, "has been a growing, but slowly growing" part of the state's transit system, Redeker told the chamber.

    He said the service has been challenged by rail bridges that need to open and close for maritime passage.

    Redeker said the replacement of the Connecticut River Bridge, a railroad bridge between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme, is a critical component of plans to improve service. Under the proposal, the state would contribute $220 million to the replacement project.

    He said when the Connecticut River Bridge opens and closes and takes a long time, it is the "single biggest congestion bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor" between Washington, D.C., and Boston.

    On Thursday, Malloy also announced improvements to the Old Saybrook train station that will add 196 additional parking spaces, a new bus shelter, electrical vehicle charging stations and bicycle facilities and be accompanied by a 186-unit residential development, according to a news release.

    The state also is beginning to look at building a train station in Niantic, which would provide another access point for the rail system, he said. Building a new station and accompanying parking would cost an estimated $30 million.

    In addition to maintaining Shore Line East's electric fleet, the plan proposes $40 million to purchase additional M8 cars to expand service between the New Haven Line and New York and $100 million to "upgrade Amtrak's existing catenary system and power." 

    The extension of commuter rail service between New London and Westerly would cost about $200 million, according to the 30-year transportation document.

    Currently, the state pays the difference for riders to take certain Amtrak trains — including one Acela train — but Amtrak has informed the state that the policy will end by September, Redeker said. He spoke in response to an audience comment that the state could subsidize tickets on Amtrak between New York and New London to see if the Shore Line East expansion is economically viable.

    "We're negotiating over an extension of that," he said. He said the state wants to pay that difference for as long as it possibly can.

    He said a new federal policy stipulates that the state and Amtrak have to share costs proportionate to their use of the Northeast Corridor.

    He said the terms will need to be negotiated, but he anticipates in the future a complete separation between Shore Line East and Amtrak service. 

    k.drelich@theday.com

    Twitter: @KimberlyDrelich

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