Calling the extension of light rail "a good idea," U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Friday the possibility of a new commuter rail line between Waterbury and Hartford is "definitely worth exploring."
Lieberman said that commuter rail would help reduce gasoline use, relieve highway congestion and help the envi-ronment.
"It’s also good for the environment," Lieberman said.
State lawmakers are pushing for a $250,000 study of the possible use of a 24.5 mile, privately owned freight rail line between Berlin and Waterbury. It would have stops in at least New Britain, Plainville and Bristol.
The owner of the line, the Massachusetts-based Pan Am Railways, has estimated it would cost $52 million to make the necessary upgrades to the existing single-track line to allow for commuter trails to operate. Supporters have said it could probably use old Metro North passenger cars to save money.
Lieberman said he doesn’t know too much about the light rail project touted by Bristol and state officials. But, he said, he generally supports the concept.
He said that one of the nation’s mistakes over the past 40 years has been to let light rail wither when it should have been a key element of transportation policy.
Lieberman said the proposed line between New Haven and Springfield, Mass. – a project likely to be funded with federal economic stimulus money – opens the door to other, connected plans.
The area’s two congressmen – U.S. Reps. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol and Berlin, and Chris Murphy, a Cheshire Democrat whose 5th District includes New Britain and Waterbury --- said this week they support study of the light rail proposal for Bristol and New Britain.
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