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High Speed Rail Gets Boost in Region

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By STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut has won a major federal grant to help launch high-speed passenger rail service through the heart of southern New England.

U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd’s office scheduled an announcement Monday afternoon about the allocation, calling it “a major federal investment” to kick-start the service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Mass.

Dodd’s office would not disclose the amount, but two people with knowledge of the funding who were not authorized to speak before the announcement told The Associated Press it was about $121 million.

Connecticut asked earlier this year for $220 million to overhaul the rail corridor. It needs better tracks and other repairs to support high-speed rail service.

The state received $40 million for the project in January with the promise that more might be coming under the

Obama administration’s $8 billion stimulus funds package for rail projects nationwide.

The $121 million being announced Monday will be added to the $260 million that the State Bond Commission agreed to borrow to match whatever federal funds Connecticut can garner.

Officials hope to bring high-speed, intercity rail service to the corridor within five years, but first would need to upgrade and build stations and add a second track on portions of the 62-mile line that have only a single rail track.

Connecticut’s announcement came on the same day that U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes of New Hampshire announced more than $2 million in stimulus funds to study a $300 million high-speed rail corridor. That project would run from Boston to Nashua, and on to Concord.

The western New England line would link high-speed trains from New York City to New Haven, then north to Hartford, Springfield, and eventually to Vermont and Montreal.

Massachusetts has already received $70 million in federal money to upgrade deteriorated tracks from Springfield to Vermont. The tracks now carry freight trains at speeds no faster than 10 miles per hour, but repairs are expected to eventually boost speeds to about 60 and 70 miles per hour.

Train service for years has been diverted east to Palmer to avoid the run-down tracks. Transportation officials want to rebuild those tracks to provide north-south passenger service to population centers in Chicopee, Holyoke, Amherst and Greenfield.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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