Hugh McQuaid file photo

Failing to invest in the Amtrak line’s busy Northeast Corridor, in the eyes of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, is just plain dumb.

“In business terms,” Blumenthal said Wednesday, “it is like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”

Blumenthal, and fellow Connecticut Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep.Elizabeth Esty, held a celebratory press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to trumpet the recently passed U.S. Senate transportation funding bill that includes about $3.11 billion for railroad investment and infrastructure, more than $300 million of that for the Northeast Corridor.

That bill, passed in the Senate in mid-May, creates a new Northeast Corridor rail fund specifically for infrastructure improvements and safety upgrades along the northeast corridor line.

Congress is expected to take up the measure in the coming weeks.

Blumenthal, Murphy, and Esty issued a joint statement: “Transportation investment is so important for Connecticut’s economy. People are fed up with their commutes — and they don’t want their ticket fares subsidizing train service in the rest of the country when we have so many problems to fix here at home.”

The statement from the three continued: “For the first time, this bill sets aside money specifically for the northeast and allows us to keep our profits to reinvest in repairing our railroads and improving train service.”

The Senate-passed bill includes:

• $1.42 billion for Amtrak, which represents a $30-million increase from last year;
• $345 million for a newly-created Northeast Corridor account;
• $1.075 billion for Amtrak’s National Network;
• $199 million in train control safety equipment;
• $50 million for consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvement grants;
• $20 million for federal-state partnership for State of Good Repair Grants to help Northeast Corridor states tackle the state of good repair backlog from Boston to Washington, D.C.

Blumenthal is a member of U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Murphy sits on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and Esty is a member of U.S. House Transportation Committee.

Blumenthal called the Northeast Corridor $345 million account an “important, historic milestone.”

“It only makes sense that the Amtrak line that brings in the most money, has the most riders, is the one that gets to spend the most on re-investment to benefit those very same riders,” Blumenthal said.

Murphy too, said it was a good day for Connecticut rail commuters, Connecticut business, and Connecticut in general.

“Transportation funding is the coin of the realm when it comes to economic growth in Connecticut — our state’s economy hinges on our ability to move people safely and quickly to the big metro centers of Manhattan and Boston,” Murphy said. “People in Connecticut are fed up with their commutes. I’m proud to have helped craft this bill because of the critical investments it makes in Connecticut roads, rail, and safety.”

When Blumenthal and Murphy were asked why this year was the year that legislation singling out special funding for the Northeast Corridor passed, both said recent accidents and mishaps on the rail lines certainly didn’t hurt the cause.

But they also said politics played a role.

“In the past some of my Republican colleagues have been penny-wise and pound foolish,” Blumenthal said.

Murphy added that he felt “privatizing Amtrak is certainly an option that some Republicans think is a good idea. I am not looking to privatize Amtrak. But giving more money to the Amtrak line that makes the most money is certainly a way of giving that argument more meaning.”