On September 7, the Northeast Regional Train #67 (Boston to Newport News) became the last Amtrak train to rumble over the old Niantic River Bridge. After 105 years, the old railroad bridge was finally removed from service shortly before midnight and all railroad traffic was transferred to the new bridge.
“This is a major accomplishment in Amtrak’s effort to renew and improve Northeast Corridor infrastructure for the next century of service,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.
According to a press release issued by Amtrak on Friday, the new bridge should allow Amtrak trains to increase in speeds on and near the bridge, which should minimize delays on the railroad's key route between New York and Boston. All rail traffic will use just one track on the new bascule lift bridge at first. The second track should be operational in November.
The project, which is costing Amtrak $140 million, began in April 2010 and is on schedule to be completed by May of 2013. In addition to the new bridge construction, Amtrak is also reconstructing sections of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk and will replenish the beach.
The Town of East Lyme intends to coordinate its repairs to the pathway section of the boardwalk that leads to Hole in the Wall beach—which was damaged by Tropical Storm Irene last August—so that the entire boardwalk will be open to the public in the spring at the same time.
The new bridge is designed to give river traffic more clearance vertically, Amtrak says, and the navigation channel has also been widened. Amtrak says the old bridge will be opened and raised for boat traffic as usual until it is completely removed in the spring.
The first train to cross the new bridge was the Northeast Regional Train #66 (Newport News to Boston) which was scheduled to pass over the Niantic River at 5:24 a.m. on Saturday morning.