June 06--NEW HAVEN -- A new fleet of rail cars needs a state-of-the-art rail yard to keep it moving efficiently, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Malloy, state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and other officials took a bus tour of the 1,600-acre rail yard to see the buildings under construction. The current projects should be finished by 2016.
"We are making long-term investments in Connecticut's future, investments that should have been made previously," Malloy said. The total cost will be $1.15 billion, which includes the construction off Brewery Street, a fifth power station and other improvements. The buildings under construction cost $400 million, said Redeker.
They'll service Metro-North's M8 rail cars that are replacing the old M2 and M6 cars (but it's still up in the air whether the bar cars will be replaced).
Malloy pointed out that the state Bond Commission approved an additional $80 million on May 31 to help pay for "as reliable a commutation system as possible." The rail yard being replaced "has served our rail system since the mid-1800s," Malloy said.
The largest building is a $215 million component change-out shop, which can accommodate 13 two-car sets at one time for repairs and maintenance. Platforms in the floor lift the cars for workers to get underneath and a gigantic crane in the ceiling can take the mechanicals off the cars' tops. "Everything will be modular," Redeker said.
Another large building is a wheel-truing facility, costing $36 million. Wheels are tested after each run and ground to an accurate shape when they fall below Federal Railroad Administration standards.
"It can be a big issue with leaves on the tracks" that can leave a slight flat spot when run over by the train, said Department of Transportation spokesman Judd Everhart.
Other components of the rail yard include an M8 acceptance facility, where new cars are checked over and tested, a $34 million central distribution warehouse, still in design, and an expanded diesel shop. (Diesel is still used east of New Haven and will be on the New Haven-Springfield, Mass., line.)
Malloy, who is running for a second term, acknowledged that much of the public is unaware of what goes on behind the scenes when they ride Metro-North, hence the reason for his tour. "This stuff doesn't get seen and therefore doesn't get understood but this is a massive facility," the governor said. He said the project has grown since as recently as six years ago.
"This is an evolving process with massive amounts of investment," he said. The rail yard ultimately will employ 1,600 workers.
State Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, attended the tour because his district is nearby. "The highway [construction] is important." But the improved rail system "is game-changing," Lemar said.
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