Running a train to New York from New Haven in an hour would be hugely popular and make mayoral contender Toni Harp happy, but Metro-North Railroad says it is just not possible.
"It would take billions," said Majorie Anders, spokeswoman for Metro-North, who made clear the rail service wouldn't pass up the funds if it came their way.
"We'll take money from anyone." Anders said.
The tracks in Connecticut are owned by the state, Anders said, unlike the rest of the Northeast Corridor where they are owned by Amtrak. The rail service in Connecticut is managed by Metro-North.
Harp, a state senator for 21 years who is running for mayor against Alderman Justin Elicker, is pushing an hourlong ride to New York as part of her economic development plan, and has said it is a matter of leadership to make it a priority.
Anders said the problem isn't advocacy, but curvature of the tracks.
"The New Haven line has a lot of curves and it is very costly to straighten," Anders said.
She said of the 72 miles to New York City's Grand Central Terminal, there is only one mile of straight track that allows the trains to hit 90 mph.
Harp, state Sen. Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., talked up the importance of rail service to economic development in a press conference at Union Station, praising each other for their commitment to public transportation.
Harp suggested if the train stops only in Bridgeport and Stamford, it could come close to the hourlong goal without a huge investment.
Anders said the fastest train from New Haven to Grand Central now takes 1 hour and 45 minutes. She said making only two stops here would mean skipping three others and shaving 6 minutes off the ride.
Blumenthal said there needs to be a major national investment in rail infrastructure. Given fallout from the government shutdown, he hoped Congress was at "a critical turning point," where the parties now recognize their common interests to promote jobs and economic growth and can get on with such investments in the last two years of the Obama administration.
He said he will fight one option by Amtrak to bypass New Haven with its 250 mph high-speed train from Boston to Washington, D.C.
One of the reasons for the press conference at the train station was Blumenthal's official endorsement of Harp, who won the Democratic primary for mayor. He said advocacy by local officials, as well as U.S. senators, is important on transportation issues.
Blumenthal said Harp would carry on the tradition of "proactive, visionary leaders." He said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. also was very much focused on transportation needs.
Matthew Nemerson, president of the Connecticut Technology Council and one of Harp's advisers, said getting to New York in an hour is a matter of keeping four tracks open and running the trains an average of 80 mph. Anders said the curving tracks won't sustain that speed.
On other transportation issues, Harp said the state has the money for a second garage in New Haven at Union Station, although she said it would take some work to get the financing straightened out. The big news on this end is not expected for a few months when there is a new mayor.
The candidate said she wants better bus service to New Haven's neighborhoods and safer bicycle lanes. On converting one-way roads in the city to serve traffic in both direction, she said that might be good for some, but she again explained that converting Lynwood Place, where she once lived, solved its prostitution problem after it was made one-way.
Copyright 2013 - New Haven Register, Conn.