DOT official says commuter rail operator has been selected; formal announcement expected from governor

DOT official says commuter rail operator has been selected; formal announcement expected from governor

Record-Journal


State officials still won’t name the operator of the new commuter rail line, branded CTrail Hartford Line, but a state Department of Transportation administrator said the Wallingford train station should be finished this month, followed by the Meriden train station in mid-August.

Once the new stations are complete, DOT will ask Amtrak to open them to commuters.

Amtrak owns and operates the rail line and is among several operators considered to run CTrail Hartford Line, which is expected to increase rail service between New Haven and Hartford to 17 trains a day, with another 12 trains per day to Springfield.

The DOT is waiting for a final contract with the new operator and a formal announcement from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said John Bernick, DOT’s assistant rail administrator.

“We want to wait for the contract to be finalized before announcing something prematurely,” said Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly.

Double tracking the rail line from New Haven to Springfield is complete to the Berlin line, according to Bernick. The remaining track work to Newington and under Route 9 will continue to Interstate 84 in Hartford, where decisions about redesigning the highway will determine track placement. The I-84 Hartford Project will address aging highway bridges in downtown Hartford.

Double tracking picks up north of Hartford and continues to Springfield.

Bernick is confident a single track through Hartford will handle 17 commuter trains daily until the I-84 work is complete.

“We’ve done models on it,” he said.

Jim Gildea, chairman of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, doesn’t doubt the state models for single-track rail service.

“I commute on the Waterbury branch line and they run 15 trains a day from Waterbury to Bridgeport; 8 to Bridgeport and 7 back to Waterbury,” he said.

The I-84 project in Hartford will also determine what changes, if any, will be made to Union Station. Some officials are eying a multi-modal transportation center that services CTrail, CTfastrak and CTtransit commuters.

A marketing campaign will begin soon after the operator is announced, Bernick said.

Gildea expects the roll out of expanded rail service to be delayed from January to the spring because of the delay in hiring an operator, the current state budget and winter weather.

“The Council asked at our last meeting on June 21, and were told that they had selected a provider but were working on some details,” Gildea said in an email. “I believe that the line will not commence in January but rather, the start date will be pushed out until spring based upon budgeting issues and a desire to not start up during inclement weather.”

It is estimated that an additional $460 million would be required to complete all the work necessary to finish the double tracking from Windsor to Springfield, improving stations in Windsor and Windsor Locks, completing new stations in Enfield, West Hartford, Newington, and North Haven, and equipment along the corridor, according to www.nhhsrail.com, a website established by the state that provides updates on the project.

State officials are hoping for matching federal funds to complete much of the work. Plans call for using existing Shore Line East diesel trains once new electric trains are certified for operation on the Shore Line East route. Infrastructure improvements are also needed at the Amtrak-owned Hartford Station viaduct and the Connecticut River Bridge at Windsor Locks to expand service.

“With the announcement, we’re going to ramp up,” Bernick said.

mgodin@record-journal.com 203-317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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