Lawmakers look for improvements on CT rail service []

May 15, 2015

Article as it appeared on
WFSB 3 Connecticut

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – As new information unfolds about the horrific Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, Connecticut lawmakers spoke out about the health of the rail infrastructure in the state.

Amtrak’s northeast corridor runs through Connecticut and is the national rail line’s busiest route.

State legislative leaders in Hartford and Washington D.C. said the service needs to be modernized.

As investigators search for a cause of Tuesday night’s deadly train wreck in Philadelphia, lawmakers in Connecticut are anxious to learn if it was human error or mechanical error that claimed eight lives.

“This accident is devastating because many of our commuters, people, family, and our neighbors take that train all the time,” said State Representative Toni Boucher, R-Wilton.

Amtrak owns and maintains the northeast corridor line from Washington D.C. to New Rochelle, NY.

Once in Connecticut, the state’s Department of Transportation maintains the route to New Haven with an agreement with Metro-North.

From New Haven to the Rhode Island border and New Haven to Springfield, the route is maintained and operated by Amtrak.

“The nation has been failing to invest and make a commitment and upgrade and improve safety and reliability and foster trust and confidence,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said.

While federal funding has already replaced century old rail bridges in New London and Niantic, plans are in the works now to replace the 119-year-old Norwalk River Bridge, which failed last August.

Other recent rail failures, such as Metro-North’s head-on derailment two years ago in Fairfield that injured 72 people, still has lawmakers worried about the health of the rail systems.

“The infrastructure, the things the train rides on which is so important. It’s like your home your plumbing, air conditioning that’s the guts of your home,” Boucher said.

Even with a fleet of new rolling stock on Metro-North’s New Haven line, the railroad is nearly finished upgrading the overhead wires and electrical systems.

Connecticut lawmakers insist that more has to be done and that means designating money.

Blumenthal said it will take billions and it can be borrowed at low interest from banks or quasi-public private partnership.