CT: How the Five-Year Rail Plan Will Impact Connecticut’s Economy

Nov. 8—In addition to enhanced safety measures and sustainability efforts, the state Department of Transportation predicts its five-year rail plan will increase economic growth and jobs along Connecticut’s rail corridors.

While the composition of the state railway plan for 2022-2026 is in the final stages, work to achieve some of the more modest goals is already underway, said senior transport ministry adviser Carlo Leone.

The state railroad plan ensures Connecticut is compliant with the federal Passenger Railroad Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, according to a DOT statement. Work on the new plan began in 2021 and several public hearings have taken place over the past year.

The main objectives set out in the plan are divided into five categories: improving safety, maintaining good railway systems, increasing mobility, benefiting national and local economies and improving sustainability.

Although the required federal plan only spans the next four years, the DOT has set broad 20-year goals with the hope that Connecticut’s rail system, “is safe, connects communities, generates economic growth sustainable, helps build energy independence and provides links to travel corridors and markets within and outside the region.

State officials have previously touted the ambitions outlined in the plan, including cutting travel time to New York by 25 minutes and the ability to connect Connecticut passengers to New York’s Penn Station.

Highlighting missed opportunities for economic growth, the DOT also committed in the plan to leverage the rail system “to support economic competitiveness.”

A 2021 Statewide Rail Improvements Economic Impact Study conducted by the Capitol Region Council of Governments and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission found that there has been a divestment in rail connectivity over the past few years. Last 30 years, according to plan.

Divestment began in the 1980s and resulted in the loss of “20,000 to 40,000 Metro Hartford-Springfield information technology, finance and professional services jobs due to lack of regional and intercity rail connectivity in the area,” the plan reads.

“The report further noted that in similar regions in the northeast where rail was well supported, the availability of these jobs had fueled regional economic growth, and that employees in these areas were particularly attracted by the availability of transport. railway,” the plan reads. “Finally, the study further found that investing in regional rail between Massachusetts and Connecticut could lead to a 10:1 return on investment over a 30-year period.”

Freight, an often overlooked aspect of the state rail system, will also see improvements over the next five years, according to the plan.

Additionally, the DOT plans to invest in infrastructure improvements that will allow freight trains to increase service.

“CTDOT plans to work with its freight and municipal partners to invest in rail and adjacent improvements, including infrastructure improvements that support current and future freight best practices and provide improved and more efficient freight service; improvements in intermodal operations; and transit-oriented improvements in development that will encourage sustainable land use,” the plan reads.

Connecticut’s rail freight industry is operated by the private sector as a for-profit, public benefit service. Connecticut has five freight rail routes used by nine freight operators over 577 miles, according to the plan.

According to the DOT and the Association of American Railroads, more than 43 million people and 2.9 million tons of freight are moved by rail in and through Connecticut each year.

Freight lines will also be a factor as Connecticut aims to increase state sustainability, since freight trains are three to four times more fuel efficient than trucks, according to the DOT. Passenger trains are also more fuel efficient than trucks.

Due to energy efficiency, transporting goods by rail reduces GHG emissions by 75% compared to trucking, according to the plan. Part of the state’s plan is to continue to encourage the shift from vehicles to rail travel.

On average, passenger rail can achieve fuel savings of 51.6 passenger-miles per gallon. That compares to vehicles that average 36 passenger miles per gallon, according to the DOT.

The state is also seeking to electrify all Connecticut commuter rail lines as part of its environmental initiatives.

Expanding access means electrifying rail cars, making all stops accessible to people with disabilities, shortening travel time between Connecticut and New York, and adding a way to get to Bradley International Airport without needing a vehicle.

To implement the plan’s initiatives, nearly $13 billion will be invested in the state’s rail system over the next five years.

Of the $12.7 billion, $8.7 billion is for the New Haven line; $12.5 million for the Danbury line; $120 million for Waterbury and $921 million for Hartford, and “many more millions along the corridor”, Leone said.

Abigail Brone can be contacted at [email protected]édiact.com.

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