FOR RELEASE: September 17, 2014
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State Receives $161 Million Federal Grant for 118-Year-Old Norwalk Rail Bridge

(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that Connecticut has received a $161 million federal grant to be used to fund the design and replacement of the New Haven Line’s Walk Railroad Bridge in Norwalk.  Over the summer, the 118-year-old bridge malfunctioned in two separate incidents within a two week period, causing train delays and commuter frustration on Metro-North’s commuter line.

“The reliability of the Walk Bridge and the New Haven Line is of critical importance to the entire Northeast Corridor. Too many people depend on the commuter line to continue to see the kinds of disruptions we saw over the summer,” said Governor Malloy. “Connecticut was among many East Coast states applying for these very competitive grants to ‘harden’ transportation infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and I am pleased that we succeeded. This funding is great news for our economy and for our residents who rely on this system every day.”

In April, Governor Malloy announced that the State of Connecticut applied for $600 million in federal transportation funding to help cover the capital costs of three resiliency, or “hardening”, projects central to Connecticut’s commuter rail infrastructure along the New Haven Line. Specifically, the state requested $349 million in federal funding to cover 75 percent of the cost of the Walk Bridge Replacement Project. The Governor said that Connecticut has also won a $9 million Sandy grant to upgrade the power system at the New Haven Rail Yard, where Connecticut’s rail car fleet is maintained.

On June 9th, following a Walk Bridge “crisis summit” with Metro-North, Governor Malloy announced the establishment of a Short Term Action Team (STAT) charged with reviewing, investigating and determining the best approach to improve the mechanical reliability of the Walk Bridge. The team consisted of CTDOT engineers and bridge inspectors, Metro-North engineers, and consultant bridge inspectors and engineers.  The report that resulted from STAT’s work outlines a series of modifications that can be made over the next nine months that will improve the operating systems and reliability of the bridge until the bridge can ultimately be replaced. The state funding will pay for work on the devices that lift the rails and re-seat them, and other improvements that will restore the automated operation to the bridge.

“Metro-North Railroad heartily supports Connecticut’s effort to rebuild the Walk Bridge and this grant will go a long way toward that goal,” said Railroad President Joseph Giulietti.  “All of our New Haven Line customers understand the importance of this bridge to providing safe and reliable service, and Metro-North workers labor valiantly to keep the bridge in working order. We are pleased the federal government has recognized the vital need to replace this bridge, and we congratulate Connecticut on its successful efforts to enhance and improve this critical infrastructure component.” 

“These two competitive awards-- $161 million for the Walk Bridge and $9 million for the New Haven Rail Yard are major victories for rail reliability in Connecticut and the region. The catastrophic, repeat failures at the Walk Bridge earlier this year-- the result of decades of decay, deferred maintenance and neglect-- caused intolerable delays, disrupting thousands of commuters along the nation's busiest rail line. The Walk Bridge is stuck in the 19th century, and a permanent, 21st century solution is needed,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.   “As storms like Sandy becoming the new normal, protecting the New Haven Rail Yard and other vital transportation assets from paralyzing service disruptions will be critical to the resiliency and stability of our regional economy. These grants are a huge down payment, and I will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Governor Malloy to identify additional federal resources to strengthen our critical transportation infrastructure and assure unimpeded rail service throughout the region. We must invest now in our rail and transportation infrastructure, or pay later with escalating failures, severe traffic congestion and diminished opportunities for economic development.”

“The Walk Bridge’s failure to open not once, but twice this year, served as a wake-up call for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut commuters that we simply can’t afford to let our roads and bridges crumble around us. Replacing this 118-year-old bridge is long overdue which is why we’ve been fighting hard to secure this grant,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. “I want to credit Governor Malloy for his quick, decisive leadership in bringing home this funding which will go a long way toward making commuters safer and happier. The fight to repair and replace our infrastructure shouldn’t begin and end with this bridge, and I look forward to doing whatever I can to help.”

“The Northeast Corridor is a critical transportation asset for the state of Connecticut and the entire region,” said U.S. Representative John Larson (CT-1).  “This funding will go a long way towards hardening the resiliency of our infrastructure and improving safety and reliability for rail passengers.   I applaud the Federal Transit Administration for recognizing the merits of these projects and commend Governor Malloy, ConnDOT, and the rest of the Connecticut delegation for their work in securing this federal disaster relief funding.” 

“Upgrading Connecticut’s outdated rail infrastructure is critical to our economy and our future,” said U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (CT-2).  “Commuters along the shoreline rely on the Northeast Corridor to get to and from their jobs every day, and these improvements will enhance reliability and performance of our passenger rail.  The delegation has worked to replace a number of century-old bridges, and we will continue to seek federal support for future projects.”

“Southern Connecticut residents are still recovering from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy and I am pleased to see federal dollars being committed to improvements of the New Haven Rail Yard and the Norwalk Walk Bridge,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-3). “We should be making more of these smart investments that pay long-term dividends. There is a lot of work and resources needed to complete critical infrastructure projects like these and I will continue to fight to ensure that Connecticut receives the assistance we need.”

“This historic federal investment is a tremendous victory for both Norwalk and our entire region. For far too long, Norwalk's deteriorated Walk Bridge has caused delays that have been a drain on commuters and businesses, and this important award will finally replace it and make other much-needed repairs to improve the safety and efficiency of Metro-North’s New Haven line,” said U.S. Representative Jim Himes (CT-4).  “Super Storm Sandy provided more evidence of why we must invest now to strengthen Southwest Connecticut's aging transportation infrastructure and mitigate the damage from future storms. I was proud to fight for this funding and I will continue pushing for the infrastructure investments we need to strengthen the foundation of our economy.”

“As a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am proud to have helped secure these Federal Transit Administration grants to rebuild the Walk Bridge in Norwalk and upgrade the New Haven Rail Yard,” said U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty (CT-5).  “These projects are critical to enhancing the quality of life for my district’s commuters. I will continue to advocate for these important infrastructure projects, as they put people to work today so that more people can go to work tomorrow.”

Among the Walk Bridge recommendations now being implemented:

·         Establishing a separate drive system to open and close the movable pieces of rail that lock the bridge into place;

·         Installing electronic switches;

·         Implementing repairs to rollers and rods in the center pier on which the bridge pivots;

·         Readjusting the gear and shaft system to properly align wedges at either end of the movable span that lock it into place.

The new mechanisms will be programmed into the automation of the bridge to reduce the manpower currently needed to open the bridge.

Built in 1896, the Walk Bridge is the oldest movable bridge along the New Haven Line/Northeast Corridor in Connecticut. The bridge will be replaced with a more resilient “bascule” or vertical lift bridge that opens for marine traffic from one side with a counterweight system and will significantly enhance the safety and reliability of commuter and intercity passenger service along the Northeast corridor.

Under contract to the State of Connecticut, Metro-North maintains the Walk Bridge and open and close it as required by the needs of marine traffic. Leading up to the malfunctions of the Walk Bridge, Governor Malloy outlined his expectations and priorities for Metro-North’s performance when the new Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti began his position in February. Governor Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker have been in active discussions with Mr. Giulietti as Metro-North works to implement its 100-Day improvement strategy for Connecticut service in order to restore the New Haven Line to a “best-in-class” railroad. Metro-North’s improvements also include the appointment of a District Superintendent on the New Haven Line, with a particular attention paid to the Waterbury Branch Line. Major improvements to the Waterbury Branch are already in the works, including a new signal system and “Positive train Control.”   In the last four years, the state has spent almost $11 million in Waterbury Branch-specific upgrades of track, bridges and culverts to restore the line to a state-of-good repair.