High-speed rail projects were highlighted at an interstate conference today in Springfield, Massachusetts, where speakers urged more federal spending on transportation infrastructure.
The investment of $700 million to upgrade 62 miles of rail line linking the Greater New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield metropolitan areas will pay great dividends when high-speed trains start running on the line next May, predicted Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.
" And I am not talking about more casinos," said Malloy. " I am talking about transportation and job training and human capital and everything else connected with those efforts."
The new commuter rail service on the Hartford Line is to have 17 round-trip trains between New Haven and Hartford each weekday, with 12 of those trains continuing to Springfield. The line will operate at speeds up to 110 mph, cutting the travel time between Springfield and New Haven to about 81 minutes.
" It is going to be that connection that will make it easier to get to school in the area. It is going to make it easier to get to work in the area. It is going to promote economic activity in the area," said Malloy
Malloy spoke at a conference Wednesday hosted by the New England Knowledge Corridor Partnership to highlight the economic development impact of the region’s transportation projects. It was held at Springfield’s Union Station, which opened last June after a $95 million restoration.
The Democratic governor from Connecticut endorsed a much-talked about, but never formally studied, project to build a high-speed rail line between Springfield and Boston.
" Quite frankly, one of the things Massachusetts needs to do is get a rail line between Boston and Springfield to connect to the rail line we are building in Connecticut," Malloy said to applause from the 200 or so people in the audience at the conference.
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last year vetoed a proposed feasibility study of the east-west rail link.
Congressman Richard Neal, who earmarked funds to renovate Union Station, praised Malloy for directing over $200 million in federal money into the Hartford Line project.
"Gov. Malloy's work on that has really been visionary," said Neal.
Neal was joined at the conference by two other Democratic members of Congress – James McGovern, also from Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut – to discuss the prospects for federal spending on infrastructure.
McGovern called transportation the “most important factor in promoting economic development.”
" You outta be able to get from Boston to Worcester to Springfield and we need to get our state to make it a priority," said McGovern. " I keep hearing all the challenges like ' CSX doesn't want to share the track' or 'it will be too expensive', but lets begin to develop the plan."
He said a once-rundown section of Worcester has been revitalized because of the restoration of that city’s Union Station and the expansion of commuter rail service from Boston more than a decade ago.
Springfield Economic Development Director Kevin Kennedy said one of the hopes with the new rail service is that it will attract millennials to live in downtown Springfield.
" I think rail means jobs, comfort, and convenience and it is something that is very important to the lifestyle of today," said Kennedy.
A survey of businesses in the New Haven-Springfield corridor by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association said the biggest benefit of the new rail service will be access to skilled workers.