Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Report: New Haven Line seriously underfunded

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Connecticut officials demanding meetings and answers from Metro-North Railroad and parent Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) might pause before leveling bombast, if a new report by the Regional Plan Association carries any weight.

The RPA report, Getting Back on Track: Unlocking the Full Potential of the New Haven Line, suggests that New Haven Line riders, upset by several incidents during 2013, could face 20 more years of similar disruptions if basic maintenance needs and capital infrastructure improvements are not addressed.

RPA's report, released Feb. 4, 2014, urges $3.6 billion in investments during the next seven years. It recommends 8% of that amount, or $300 million, to target power system replacement and repairs, with another $330 million, or 9%, recommended for expansion and modernization of Metro-North's New Haven rail yard.

The largest capital cost – repair or replacement of several moveable bridges – is estimated to cost $2.8 billion, or 78% of the funds recommended.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation's (ConnDOT) 2013-2017 capital plan at present identifies $962 million to the New Haven Line, or 26. 7% of the needs identified by the RPA report, or a rate of replacement stretching two decades, though that percentage does not factor in New York State's contribution to its smaller portion of the New Haven Line, stretching from New Rochelle to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

Rail advocates and even some rail industry officials have previously if quietly noted Connecticut's funding commitment to the New Haven Line has been, at best, uneven over the years, prone to surges of support following disruptive events and fading as conditions improve.

Despite the New Haven Line's woes during 2013, the route still set a ridership record of 39 million rides, retaining its status as the busiest rail passenger line in terms of ridership within North America.

Connecticut officials earlier this week said they plan to meet with MTA and Metro-North officials on Feb. 13.