October 5, 2022

FRA Announces $65.2 Million Grant for New CT River Bridge Between Old Lyme, Old Saybrook

This photo shows the Amtrak bascule bridge between Old Lyme, Conn. (to the left) and Old Saybrook, Conn. (to the right) in the open position. This image by Denimadept is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Second $20M FRA Grant Supports Phase 1 (Two of Seven) of CT DOT’s Plan to Replace Power Substations Along New Haven Line

HARTFORD, CT/OLD LYME – On Aug. 18, Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut’s Congressional delegation announced that Connecticut has been awarded two grants totaling more than $85.2 million from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for major infrastructure improvement projects on the Northeast Corridor.

The funds will be used for two significant capital projects that improve safety and reliability along the Connecticut-owned New Haven Line and the Amtrak-owned Shore Line East, ensuring no disruptions occur along the Northeast Corridor. They are being awarded under the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program.

The first grant, in the amount of $65.2 million, will support the replacement of the existing Amtrak-owned Connecticut River Bridge between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme with a modern and resilient new moveable bridge.

The project will improve safety, reliability, and trip time. Maximum speeds will increase from 45 miles per hour on the current span up to 70 miles per hour. The increase to 70 mph afforded by a more modern miter rail design will be a marked improvement: however, speed restrictions on the curves on either side of the Connecticut River Bridge will still be required but will be optimized to achieve maximum impact.

The existing 115-year-old Connecticut River Bridge poses a significant risk of long-term disruption to the Northeast Corridor due to its age and condition. The bridge was opened in 1907 and is the oldest rolling lift bascule span bridge between New Haven, Conn. and Boston, Mass.

The bridge spans the Connecticut River 3.4 miles north of the mouth of the Long Island Sound. It serves the Northeast Corridor main line and is used by Amtrak’s intercity service, Shore Line East (SLE) commuter rail service, and freight operators. Approximately 38 Amtrak trains, 12 CTDOT (SLE) trains, and six Providence and Worcester Railroad trains travel across the bridge each weekday, a total of 56 trains per day.

The bridge has a movable span that is raised up to allow boats to pass. The Connecticut River Bridge fails to open and close properly, which has led to cascading delays to rail and maritime traffic. Due to its age and deteriorated condition, the operational reliability of the existing bridge is at high risk.

The new bridge will be built along a new southern alignment, with an offset of 52 ft. from the centerline of the existing bridge to the centerline of the new bridge.

The replacement bridge will maintain the two-track configuration and existing channel location and provide a moveable span with additional vertical clearance for maritime traffic. Delays from bridge openings will be significantly reduced, and Amtrak will realize maintenance savings from the new structure.

This grant marks the second Federal-State Partnership program contribution toward the project since an additional $65.2 million was awarded in fiscal year 2020. The Connecticut Department of Transportation and Amtrak will provide a 38 percent match of the grant.

The second grant, in the amount of $20 million, will support phase one of the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s overall plan to replace the seven power substations along the New Haven Line, beginning with the replacement of the first two.

These substations have not been repaired or renovated since the 1980s.

The upgraded substations will be more reliable, more energy efficient, and less costly to maintain. The aging power infrastructure poses a significant risk of rail service disruption, and maintaining the assets is essential to ensuring reliable train service for passengers.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont commented, “We all know how critical the Northeast Corridor is for job creation, economic growth, and environmentally friendly transportation. Our administration has a vision for faster, more reliable, and greener public transportation, and we are doing everything possible to make that vision a reality. Thanks to these grants, that reality is moving one step closer.”

In a joint statement, the members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation said, “The Northeast Corridor is one of the busiest rail lines in North America, with more than 144,000 commuters using the New Haven Line and Shore Line East daily to travel to work or visit family.”

The statement continues, ” This critical Federal Railroad Administration funding will provide desperately needed improvements to the New Haven Line and Shore Line East, paving the way for more reliable and faster public transportation. This important investment in Connecticut upgrades the power supply and removes a major chokepoint along Shore Line East by replacing the outmoded, deteriorating Connecticut River Bridge.”

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti noted, “We appreciate the Federal Railroad Administration’s ongoing support of Connecticut’s rail infrastructure, which will help improve safety and reliability along the Northeast Corridor.”

Dennis Newman, executive vice president of strategy, planning and accessibility for Amtrak, stated, “Amtrak is grateful to the Federal Railroad Administration for awarding two grants totaling more than $85.2 million to fund critical infrastructure projects on the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut – the New Haven Line Power Program and Connecticut River Bridge.”

He added, “The funding from these grants will help modernize the infrastructure in the state and improve the reliability of both commuter and intercity train services to provide a better travel experience for Connecticut residents and visitors.”

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a press release issued Aug. 18, from the Office of CT Gov. Ned Lamont, and information published on the Amtrak.com website about the Connecticut River Bridge.