- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - When Will Parson of Springfield, Massachusetts visits family in the Hartford, Connecticut area, it means either driving through traffic, shelling out money for a bus or arranging his schedule around the infrequent Amtrak train line.

Beginning this weekend, Parson’s trip - and those of countless others - becomes much easier.

A long-awaited commuter rail line linking New Haven, Hartford and Springfield opens Saturday with two days of free rides for the public. The new line will nearly triple the number of trains that run along the Interstate 91 corridor.

“Instead of taking my car, where you’ve got the traffic, here you’ve got the train, I can relax, you let the conductor drive,” Parson said Friday as he waited at Hartford’s Union Station for an Amtrak. “I can take the bus, but it’s expensive. This is quicker. You can’t beat this.”

Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy rode the new rail line from New Haven to Hartford on Friday morning, meeting up with Massachusetts officials, including U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, another Democrat, who caught the train from Springfield. Both trains broke a ceremonial ribbon upon arriving in Connecticut’s capital.

Malloy said the service will not only ease congestion along the Interstate 91 corridor, but also drive investment and jobs to the region.

“I think it’s a big thing,” he said. “We don’t have to talk about the Hartford market and the New Haven market being different job markets. They’re now the same, because you don’t need a car to get back and forth. You don’t have to be tied up on (Interstates) 95 and 91 to reach a job that may be your next promotion. It’s a game changer for Connecticut.”

The service will feature 17 daily trains in each direction between Hartford and New Haven and 12 round trips from Hartford to Springfield, where there is still just a single track.

Eight of those round trips will be operated by the state of Connecticut; the others will be Amtrak trains.

Hartford Line tickets, which cost $8 for a 45-minute trip from New Haven to Hartford and under $13 for an 80-minute ride from New Haven to Springfield, are valid on both.

The trains can reach speeds of 110 mph.

The $765 million project, which began with a feasibility study 14 years ago, included the construction of 21 new bridges and the laying of 21 miles of new track, allowing for a second working track between New Haven and Hartford.

The project was funded mostly through state bonding, with $191 million coming from three federal grants.

There have been some early problems. About half of the trains, those operated by CTrail, use 30-year-old rail cars with bathrooms that are not accessible to the disabled. The Federal Railroad Administration recently ruled those bathrooms cannot be open to anyone until that problem is fixed.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation says that work won’t be completed until next February.

“We do not expect a significant impact on ridership, as this will be only temporary, but of course, time will tell,” the DOT said in a statement.

The trains will run from two stations in New Haven, with stops in Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks (with bus connections to Bradley International Airport), and Springfield’s Union Station.

Work continues on the line north of the capital city, and several more stations may be added.

Neal noted that Massachusetts recently approved a feasibility study of another line that would link Springfield and Boston.

“Connecticut will certainly benefit from that as well,” he said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide