Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
The train from New Haven breaks the paper ribbon at Union Station in Hartford. (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — It took decades and wasn’t without a few unforeseen problems, but Connecticut officials were finally able to celebrate the opening of the CTrail Hartford Line for service Friday.

The $755 million train line will have 17 round trips per day between New Haven and Hartford, and 12 round trips per day between Hartford and Springfield.

The double-tracking is not complete in some areas, but Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said the work is being scheduled as “positive train control” is being delivered. He said the money for the completion of the rail line north of Hartford is in the five-year capital budget for the agency. Another unforeseen snag — most bathrooms on the trains will be closed until they can be retrofitted to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are currently not big enough to fit a wheelchair.

In the meantime, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, according to a press release, is installing temporary restrooms in five Hartford Line stations — Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.

Despite those problems, it’s the first passenger rail line to open for service in Connecticut since 1990 and people were excited to be able to ride the rails.

“I think it’s going to be a big hit,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who rode the train from New Haven to Hartford Friday.

“We’ll grow the use over time,” he added. “I don’t think we’ll do it quite as fast as CTFastrak, but I think it’s going to come along pretty well.”

CTFastrak is the 9.5 mile bus line from New Britain to Hartford.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
L to R: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Senate President Martin Looney (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said capitol city has always been on the train line and limited Amtrak service has been operating for years. He said the CTrail Hartford Line will open up the area between Hartford and New Haven to economic growth because it creates a seamless corridor where people can live and work.

“Public transportation, especially rail, is vital to economic development in the 21st century,” Bronin said.

Malloy said “We don’t have to talk about the Hartford market and the New Haven market being different job markets because they’re now the same because you don’t need a car to get back and forth.”

The state of Connecticut was the beneficiary of $205 million in federal funds to help build the project. Some of that was thanks to what U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called “bad leadership in Florida,” as the Sunshine State decided not to use about $40 million in transportation funding and returned it to the federal government.

As a result, Connecticut received those funds.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd in the center of the photo (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

“There is a dividing line in this country today between people who see the future and have a vision and those who do not,” Blumenthal said.

Former Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, who attended the ceremony at Union Station in Hartford, said he had been involved in advocating for the money for this project as far back as 1992.

One of the new stations built along the line is in Meriden, Donovan’s hometown. He wasn’t the only former politician in attendance Friday — former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd also made an appearance.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal from Massachusetts said that the economy has been able to bounce back because of the federal economic stimulus program Congress supported back in 2009.

Neal said there’s often a “lifetime between a groundbreaking and a ribbon cutting.”

The first $700,000 for the environmental impact study for the CTrail Hartford Line was released back in 2007.

The rest of the funding for the project was released over two gubernatorial administrations.

Neal said there are also politicians who want to go to a groundbreaking and a ribbon cutting and don’t want to vote for the expenditure.

Earlier this week the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced it would accept requests for proposals for an 18-month study of east-west passenger rail service, including the potential for passenger service from Springfield to Boston and points further west such as Pittsfield and Palmer.

“Connecticut will certainly benefit from that as well,” Neal added.

Rides on the new line will be free June 16 and June 17. After that, a ticket from Hartford to New Haven is $8 and is also good on Amtrak trains.

For more information visit the Hartford Line website.

Also read the story from Thomas Breen at the New Haven Independent. He rode the train from New Haven to Hartford Friday.

New Hartford rail pulls into the station

Posted by on Friday, June 15, 2018