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Amtrak Says Repairs Will Disrupt Rail Service

Thousands of concrete ties to be replaced along shore; exact dates not announced

By Stephen Chupaska Published on 1/13/2009 in

Amtrak announced Monday that repairs will knock one of two mainline tracks along the Connecticut shore out of service between July and November.

The rail service needs to replace 74,000 defective concrete ties along its lines, according to a statement released Monday.

Amtrak lines in eastern Connecticut, part of the rail service's Northeast Corridor, carry passenger trains from Boston to Washington, D.C., as well as freight trains and one Shore Line East commuter train per day.

Spokesman Clifford Cole did not provide information on how the repair work would affect train schedules, saying Amtrak is “still trying to find out the parameters of the concrete replacement work to take place in Connecticut in 2009."

Peter Richter, the director of Shore Line East commuter rail, which the state Department of Transportation operates on the same tracks, said Friday that the concrete ties were laid in 1996 and were expected to last for decades.

Cole said the repair work is one reason why the planned expansion of Shore Line East commuter service to New London, which was expected to start in the spring, has been pushed back to 2010 - the other being the lack of an updated agreement among Amtrak and the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection and other agencies.

Richter announced the delay Friday during a presentation to the National Corridors Initiative, a rail advocacy group that was holding a conference at the Radisson Hotel in New London. The announcement stunned local commuter-rail advocates, who had been told earlier by the DOT that service was expected to start in the spring.

”It was contrary to what we were told,” said Kip Bochain, a member of the Shore Line East Coalition, a grassroots organization that has been pushing for regular commuter rail stops in New London. Richard Caruso, who heads the coalition, said the group would be meeting sometime this week to discuss its next step.

DOT officials have told the coalition that the main obstacle to expanding the service is renegotiating a schedule of bridge openings across Shaw's Cove, the Niantic River and the Connecticut River.

”Current passenger rail service levels are at the maximum allowed by an agreement in place between Amtrak and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, based upon past discussions between those agencies, the Coast Guard and the maritime community,” Monday's Amtrak statement said. “Amtrak and DOT have agreed to work together to see approval of an increase in this cap, but this process is just beginning.

”The last time we sought a change, it took several years to get approval. DOT and DEP have exchanged letters on this issue, but it appears that DEP is insisting that the very same lengthy review and approval process be followed before any expansion of service can be considered.”


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