Construction costs for an major part of the New Haven Rail Yard could come in lower than recent estimates, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell said last week. The lowest construction bid for a 293,000-square-foot maintenance facility to service newer Metro-North commuter trains came in at $124.8 million from O&G Industries of Torrington. The most recent estimate of the “change-out” where the trains will be maintained had been put at $291.5 million by a firm hired last year.

The potential savings are good news for a project that has been criticized for overruns that pushed estimates for the overall cost to more than $1 billion from original projections of $300 million. “This is one of the most ambitious transportation projects we’ve undertaken and it’s critical that we manage it responsibly to keep it on track and on budget,” Rell said. “The immediate impact, of course, is the construction jobs created by the project, but the overall impact will greatly upgrade commuter rail service in Connecticut with state-of-the-art cars and a state-of-the-art facility to service them.”

The state Department of Transportation is reviewing the low bid and a contract could be awarded within weeks, according to a press release. Construction is expected to begin this winter and be completed in 2012. The state embarked on the project to upgrade its New Haven facilities to handle an expanded fleet of new rail cars, known as M-8s. The state has ordered 300 of the M-8s, which are scheduled to be delivered in 2010. The overall project is expected to use $134 million of federal transportation funds and $30 million of federal stimulus funds. The state will fund the remaining costs.

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