How five-year rail plan will impact Connecticut’s economy

In addition to measures to improve safety and sustainability, the state Department of Transportation envisions its five-year rail plan will increase economic growth and jobs along Connecticut’s rail corridors.

While the design of the national railway plan for 2022-2026 is at an end, the work to achieve smaller goals is already underway, the Chief Advisor of the Department of Transportation Carlo Leone said.

The state’s rail policy ensures Connecticut is in compliance with the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, according to a DOT statement. Work on the new plan began in 2021 and several public consultations were held last year.

The main objectives described in the plan are divided into five groups: Improving safety, maintaining good rail practices, increasing the flow of traffic, benefiting the state and local economy and improving stability.

Although the federal government needs the system only over the next four years, the DOT has set many goals for the next 20 years with the hope of a Connecticut rail system, “it is safe, connects communities, makes sustainable economic growth, helps to build independence and provides links to travel corridors and markets within and outside the area.”

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State officials have previously outlined ambitions outlined in the plan, including cutting commute times to New York by 25 minutes and connecting Connecticut commuters to New York’s Penn Station.

Highlighting the missing opportunity for economic growth, the DOT also vowed in the plan to expand rail “to support economic competitiveness.”

The 2021 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 disparity for rail over the past 30 years, according to the plan.

The divestment began in the 1980s and resulted in the loss of “20,000 to 40,000 jobs in information technology, finance and technical services from Metro Hartford-Springfield due to the lack of rail service in the region and regions,” the plan said.

“The report also stated that in the northeastern regions where the railways are well served, the availability of such services has stimulated economic growth in these areas, and that workers in these areas have been greatly attracted by the availability of railways,” the policy read. “Finally, the study also showed that selling a regional railroad between Massachusetts and Connecticut would result in a 10:1 return over 30 years.”

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Freight, which is often neglected in the state’s rail transport system, will also see a change over the next five years, according to the plan.

In addition, the DOT plans to invest in infrastructure improvements that will help increase rail service.

“CTDOT plans to work with our transportation partners and municipalities to invest in the improvement of rail and rail neighborhoods, including infrastructure improvements that support current and future freight transportation and delivery services; intermodal service improvements; and development.” sustainable that will promote sustainable land use,” the plan read.

Connecticut’s railroad industry is run by a public corporation as a for-profit and public benefit operation. Connecticut has five freight lines operated by nine freight carriers over 577 miles, according to the plan.

More than 43 million people and 2.9 million tons of freight travel by rail in and around Connecticut each year, according to the DOT and the Association of American Railroads.

Freight lines will also be something Connecticut wants to increase the state’s sustainability, as freight trains are three to four times more fuel efficient than cars, according to the DOT. Passenger trains are also more fuel efficient than motor vehicles.

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Due to fuel efficiency, rail freight reduces GHG emissions by 75 percent compared to trucking, according to the plan. Part of the government’s policy includes continuing to promote the transition from car to travel education.

On average, a passenger train can get a fuel efficiency of 51.6 miles per gallon. That compares to cars that average 36 gallons per gallon, according to the DOT.

The state also wants to stop all railroad tracks in Connecticut as part of its environmental initiatives.

Expanding access means electrifying trains, making all the stops possible, shortening the travel time from Connecticut to New York City and adding a way to get to Bradley International Airport without needing a car.

To implement the plan, 13 billion dollars will be invested in the state’s railways over the next five years.

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

Abigail Brone can be reached at [email protected]


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