Kristi Allen photo
U.S. Reps. John B. Larson and Richard Neal of Massachusetts toured Union Station in Hartford as part of a three-stop tour Monday promoting updates and investments in the New Haven-to-Springfield rail line. Neal traveled to Hartford from New Haven where he met with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. He traveled back to Springfield from Hartford later Monday afternoon.

About $73 million in federal stimulus money has been spent along the Springfield-to-New Haven line since 2009. The grants have paid for major renovations to the train stations in each city along the route, which parallels Interstate 91.

“For us, the whole key is intermodal transportation,” said Larson Monday.

The Greater Hartford Transportation District has received several federal grants allowing it to renovate Hartford’s Union Station for intermodal transit at a cost of $35 million dollars. The project, which began in 2010, includes extensive cosmetic changes and the addition of a new transit center to serve as a hub for local bus routes.

The transportation center is set to open in March 2015. It will not include information for the CT Fastrak bus line, which will stop across the street from the station at Asylum Street. 

Vicki Stockard, Executive Director for the Greater Hartford Transportation District (GHTD), said the transportation center could add 50,000 new passengers to the stations annual 700,000.

“We are definitely looking at, in the next five years, well over a million passengers,” Stockard said.

The renovations have made the station a more welcoming and appealing place for travelers and businesses, Stockard said. She named security and cleanliness as two of its top priorities in the renovations.

“If you saw some of the old pictures it would be disturbing,” Stockard said. The station was abandoned in the 1960s and changed hands again before it was sold to the GHTD in 1980. The last major renovation was completed in 1987.

Stockard said the 80,000-square-foot Union Station building is currently 100 percent occupied with tenants including Capital Workforce Partners and Crosskeys Architects. The rent money from these businesses offsets the $300,000 dollars in annual operating expenses that the GHTD pays on the building.

The federal funding Larson and Neal helped secure back in 2009 will help improve the movement of people and commerce down I-91’s “Knowledge Corridor.”

Neal spoke about the historic connection between Hartford and Springfield and his personal connections — he got his masters degree at the University of Hartford while working in Springfield.

“It’s very important that proximity be enhanced by transportation,” Neal said.