On Monday afternoon Governor Dannel Malloy announced that the State of Connecticut is applying for $600 million in federal transportation funding to help cover the capital costs of three resiliency, or “hardening”, projects central to the commuter rail infrastructure of Connecticut.
“We learned some tough lessons during Super Storm Sandy, but one of the most important was that several aspects of our transportation infrastructure are in dire need of hardening measures. We have made billions of dollars in investments in new rail infrastructure in recent years, but it is just as crucial to maintain, protect and replace existing systems along the Northeast rail corridor,” said Governor Malloy. “The New Haven Line is the busiest single commuter rail system in America and the backbone of our economy and its failure due to a weather-related event would have a catastrophic ripple effect throughout the region and the nation. In anticipation of adding even more service on this state owned rail corridor, we want to undergo these projects now to ensure a safe and reliable commute for riders, prevent any major system interruptions and protect against future natural disasters.”
According to the announcement, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) will request $349 million in federal funding to replace the 118-year-old steel swing railway bridge that spans the Norwalk River, also know as the WALK bridge.
"The bridge was built in 1896, and replacing it with a more resilient “bascule” bridge (which would open for marine traffic from one side with a counterweight system) will significantly enhance the safety and reliability of commuter and intercity passenger service along the Northeast corridor."
Norwalk Director of Public Works, Hal Alvord said, "It would be the State DOT's responsibilty to work on the bridge if the funding is approved. The City [of Norwalk} has had its concerns with the bridge. It would be at an inopportune time, say a Sunday afternoon that the bridge would open to let a boat pass through and then it would be stuck in the open position. It has been on everyone's radar for quite some time."
The $349 million requested will represent 75 percent of the $465 million total project cost. ConnDOT would supplement the federal funding with $116 million in state funds. According to the announcment, the funding will be used for project design, engineering, environmental clearance, and construction.
According to the announcement, ConnDOT is also requesting $245 million in federal funding for the replacement of the existing communications and signaling system along the Connecticut section of the New Haven Line and $9 million in federal funding for a Power Upgrade at the New Haven Rail Yard.
“As storms like Sandy become the new normal, we must take immediate action to strengthen the resiliency of our public transportation systems. Protecting the New Haven Rail Yard, the Walk Bridge and communications systems along the New Haven Metro-North line are important measures that will help ensure the viability of our commuter rail system for generations to come,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “These are investments we must make now, or pay for later with paralyzing service disruptions causing lost economic opportunity and hardship. I look forward to working with the state and the rest of the delegation to ensure Connecticut receives the funds it needs and deserves to prepare its transportation infrastructure for the future.”
“Super Storm Sandy made it all too clear that Southwest Connecticut is far from immune to the effects of severe weather, and that we must do everything we can now to mitigate the damage from future storms,” said U.S. Representative Jim Himes (CT-4). “Governor Malloy's request for funding to help pay for important resiliency projects along Metro-North's New Haven Line, including for the replacement of Norwalk's Walk Bridge, will help ensure that the trains so many of my constituents rely on to get to work will keep running after the next big storm.”