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LaHood Sounds Optimistic On Rail Funding
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U S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Connecticut Monday to hear about the region’s plans for a high-speed rail between New Haven and Springfield. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.

The state was awarded $40 million in federal money in January to help build new train tracks on part of the 62-m ile line.  Now, the state and its partners are preparing an application for even more money for even more work.  And LaHood sounded optimistic.

“Connecticut has its act together.  You know, I can’t say that everywhere in the country. But I’m delighted to be able to say it here. And the people will benefit from that.”

This was LaHood’s second visit to the state this month.  He was here earlier in April to promote a project that cracks down on handheld cell phone use while driving.

On Monday, he was joined by Governor Jodi Rell, legislative leaders, Senator Chris Dodd, and three members of congress to talk about the region’s $800 million dollar plans for high-speed rail and its chances of getting  federal money. Rell and Dodd said everyone has the same goal.

“And that is to have high speed, real high-speed rail service in the corridor in the heart of New England. Our economy only moves when people and products move and we’re trying to make that happen at a faster pace than ever before.”

“This is the portal to New England and transit systems not just for Connecticut and Massachusetts, but on throughVermont, connecting Boston to New York, on down to Washington. It is absolutely what’s essential.”

Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal said that the goal of completing the project in this decade is attainable.

“There’s this whole opportunity along this corridor  for all of us form New Haven to Springfield, to really seize the moment with the president who is fully committed to this initiative, and to get it done."

If successful, the state says it would use the money for improvements to tracks, signals, and stations.

For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.