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An ambitious intercity rail system in New England is intended to reduce air traffic congestion, get cars off the highways and spur economic development. But high-speed trains will be slow in coming, transportation officials said Thursday.
A Connecticut transportation official told about 100 people at a meeting Thursday that the rail system from New Haven, Conn., to Hartford, Springfield, Mass., into Vermont and eventually reaching Montreal will not be high-speed - defined as 110 mph - in the congested and crowded Northeast.
"You should not worry about trains speeding through Hartford," said Tom Maziarz, chief of planning at the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Trains now reach about 40 mph on average, said Dave Stahnke, of engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates.
That should rise to 60 mph with better tracks - short of high-speed service but still fast when accounting for slowing at crossings and stopping and restarting at train stations.
In about 20 years when improvements are completed, a trip from Hartford to Penn Station in New York would take 2 hours and 9 minutes, down from 2 hours and 46 minutes now. Faster trains would shave a half-hour off a trip from Springfield to New York, to 2 hours and 42 minutes.
And traveling from White River Junction, Vt., to New York would take about 5 1/2 hours, nearly two hours faster.
"You want it to compete with cars," Stahnke said.
The plan also calls for increasing the number of commuter trains in Hartford, Springfield and Vermont.
The project is part of a multibillion-dollar initiative kicked off by President Barack Obama.
An application by Connecticut for $220 million in federal money was reviewed by federal railroad officials in Washington Thursday and got a fairly good reception, Maziarz said. Connecticut has pledged as much as $260 million as its share of the project to add tracks.
That's in addition to $40 million the state has already received to add a track.
Massachusetts has received $70 million in stimulus money to upgrade deteriorated tracks from Springfield to Vermont. And Vermont has received $50 million for track upgrades.
Work is set to begin in a year and be completed in two to three years, Maziarz said.
However, big-ticket items carry costs yet to be determined. Projects include adding train yards in Springfield, rebuilding a more than 100-year-old viaduct in Hartford and fixing a bridge over the Connecticut River in Connecticut.
Transportation officials heard favorable comments from the public Thursday with suggestions for parking at train stations and the ability to bring bicycles onto trains.
This program aired on July 30, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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