The New Haven Port now has $500,000 to spend to figure out how best to connect freight rail lines and the city’s port authority so that more and more incoming cargo is carried by train rather than by truck.
City and state officials announced from the second floor of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon that the Connecticut Port Authority and the City of New Haven have received the money in the form of a planning grant from the state to study improved connections between the Port of New Haven and regional freight service.
The city and state port authorities are already collaborating with the Army Corps of Engineers on a study to figure out whether or not to deepen the city Port Authority’s channel from its current level of 35 feet to allow for larger ships to come to port. This new study marks the second major collaboration between the state and city port authorities.
City and state officials touted the planning grant as paving the way for improving freight access to the city’s port, thereby increasing the amount of work and number of jobs generated by the port, and decreasing the amount of freight carried by trucks along city streets, state roads, and highways.
“Fewer trucks and less congestion improve the quality of air,” Mayor Toni Harp said, “increase productivity, and reduce wear and tear on the state’s infrastructure.”
She, along with New Haven State Sen. Martin Looney and State Rep. Al Paolillo, both of whom represent the area of the Annex neighborhood where the port is located on Waterfront Street, noted that New Haven’s port is one of only three deep water ports in the state, with the other two being in New London and Bridgeport. She said New Haven’s port is the busiest one located between New York and Boston.
“The expectation of this study will be to evaluate the existing infrastructure and provide us with an investment plan that identifies those improvements designed to maximize the efficiency, safety, and competitiveness of all rail movements in New Haven,” said Judi Sheiffele, the executive director of the New Haven Port Authority.
She said around 400 to 500 people currently work at the port, but that the number of jobs generated by the port multiplies exponentially once you consider the supply network and down the North East that the port helps provide goods for.
She said around two-thirds of the current cargo brought into the city’s port are liquids, primarily petroleum. Other imports coming into the city through the port include steel, salt, sand and ash. She said the only export that the port deals with is scrap metal.
Scott Bates, the director of the Connecticut Port Authority, said this planning grant will help the state move a bit towards his dream of having three job creation corridors anchored by ports, rail and trucking: the New Haven corridor from New Haven’s port up to Bradley Airport in Hartford; the New London corridor from New London’s port to Pomfret, Conn. and Massachusetts; and the Bridgeport corridor from Bridgeport’s port to the Naugatuck Valley.
Sheiffele, Bates and Connecticut Port Authority Commissioner Terry Gilbertson said the current freight rail connection could be improved because the current area on Waterfront Street is quite prone to flooding and there’s no current rail line that leads directly to the docks themselves.
“A port is nothing unless if you can get the cargo moving,” Bates said.
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch the full press conference.