Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that a joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts has been selected as the service provider that will operate and manage service on the CTrailHartford Line — the passenger rail service currently under construction that will provide more frequent train service between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield. The rail line is anticipated to launch in May 2018.
When service begins, the line will more than double the daily round trips currently offered in the corridor, providing more frequent, convenient and faster rail service to those living, working, and traveling through central Connecticut. Since the start of his administration, Malloy has been working to develop commuter rail service along the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield corridor, saying that a more active rail line in the region is crucial to making more livable communities, attracting businesses and job growth, and keeping the economy moving.
“We are getting closer each day to launching commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford, and our friends in Springfield — a service that we've needed in the central Connecticut area for decades and will finally allow an option to move people, goods, and services with greater ease,” Malloy said. “Creating the Hartford Line is just one part of our efforts toward building a best-in-class transportation system for Connecticut residents that drives growth, attracts businesses, and stimulates job creation, all while improving the overall quality of life for our residents. For the sake of our economy and our future, we cannot sit and let our infrastructure deteriorate — we are stepping up, moving forward, and getting this project done.”
The Hartford Line will act as a regional link with connections to existing rail services, including Metro-North, Shoreline East and Amtrak Acela high-speed rail services on both the New Haven Line to New York and on the Northeast Corridor to New London and Boston. There also will be direct bus connections to the Bradley Airport Flyer and to CTfastrak.
“This is good news for Connecticut, especially for commuters who are looking for alternatives to getting in their cars every day,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “Modernizing our transportation system helps Connecticut attract businesses and a strong workforce, it better connects residents across the region, and it reduces air pollution and its associated health risks. I applaud Governor Malloy, Commissioner Redeker, and our newest Hartford Line partners on this milestone event.”
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) conducted a thorough service provider bidding process and cost-benefit analysis for the Hartford Line program and selected TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, which are forming a joint venture solely for the purpose of serving the Hartford Line. This marks the first time that CTDOT has been able to select and contract with an experienced service provider for a major transportation program, a more cost-efficient alternative to the agency creating a separate internal unit and hiring employees to manage the Hartford Line.
“With modern stations, new amenities and faster and more frequent trains, our goal is to not only expand travel options and link communities and markets along the corridor and beyond but do so while enhancing passenger experience and providing high-quality customer service,” CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said. “We have a good partner in Amtrak and are looking forward to adding a new partner to the mix who has a substantial background in providing national and international rail service operations, including extensive experience with new service startups.”
The Joint Venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts (TASI/ACI) — as the provider will officially be branded for the purposes of the Hartford Line — entered into a $45 million contract with CTDOT for five years, plus approximately ten months of preliminary mobilization work that is required to prepare for the launch of the service. As the Hartford Line service provider, TASI/ACI will be responsible for operating trains, maintaining stations and parking facilities, and performing various customer service functions.
Together, TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts currently serve approximately 57 million riders and provide 318,000 trips annually across the United States. Both entities have provided Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) compliant services for 20 rail clients, including 11 new train service startups. Their combined operations and maintenance experience includes commuter rail contracts in San Francisco, Santa Fe, Denver, Boston and New Jersey, as well as light rail, heavy rail, and streetcar contracts throughout the country.
“The Joint Venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts has the experience and background necessary to deliver passenger rail services that are equal to the nation's best,” Scott Perry, TASI/ACI president, said. “We look forward to working with our partners at CTDOT and Amtrak to ensure a seamless launch and provide the more frequent, convenient and faster rail service that riders in this corridor want and deserve.”
Amtrak will remain responsible for maintenance of the railroad infrastructure, including track signals, train dispatching, and right-of-way security. Amtrak's existing service will not be altered by Hartford Line service. CTrail trains will operate together with Amtrak trains on the rail line to provide seamless Hartford Line service.
“Amtrak looks forward to working with CTDOT's new commuter service provider as we continue to operate the state's intercity services on Amtrak's New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line,” Michael DeCataldo, Amtrak's vice president of operations for the East region, said. “We're thankful for the partnership between CTDOT, Amtrak and the FRA that has allowed Amtrak forces to make great progress rebuilding and expanding this line in anticipation of a successful launch of this new service.”
When the Hartford Line service launches, a total of 17 roundtrip trains between New Haven and Hartford will operate each weekday, with 12 of those roundtrip trains continuing to Springfield. On weekends, a total of 13 roundtrip trains will operate between New Haven and Hartford, with 9 of those trains continuing onto Springfield. Train schedules and additional service information will be announced later this year.
Update on Construction Schedule
A key component of the Hartford Line program is the installation of a second set of tracks along the entire corridor, which throughout its lifetime had only been single-tracked. This “double-tracking” will support the increased number and frequency of daily trains.
CTDOT has hired a track construction machine (TCM), which can assemble up to 1,000 ft. of track per hour (500 ties) in ideal conditions, at more than one mi. of track per day. Prior to the use of the TCM, it took months to complete this work using either track panels, which require offsite assembly and transportation to the site, or manual installation through the use of traditional track construction equipment. The TCM, which made its debut in Connecticut in October 2016, returned on July 24 to begin the installation of nine additional mi. of double-track in the Newington and Berlin areas. When the TCM completes this work, 50 mi. of the 62-mi. corridor will be complete.
Following the completion of the double-tracking, which will include the installation of four additional mi. of double-track between Hartford and Windsor, it is anticipated that the Hartford Line will begin service in May 2018.
Improved Station Accommodations, New Stations
In addition to faster and more frequent service, Hartford Line customers will enjoy new and upgraded pedestrian and bike-friendly stations and transit hubs along the corridor. Stations along the line are located in New Haven (Union Station and State Street), Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield.
Upgrades were recently completed at New Haven's State Street Station and are under way at Hartford's Union Station. Brand new stations are currently being built in Berlin, Meriden, and Wallingford to replace the existing, outdated stations. These will include approximately 200 additional parking spaces, overhead pedestrian bridges, platform snow melting systems, real-time train arrival info displays, an electric vehicle charging station and bike racks.
Future stations are under design for North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield, and upgraded stations are also under design for Windsor and Windsor Locks.
All of the stations along the Hartford Line will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Transit-Oriented Development Activity
Municipalities with train stations along the Hartford Line corridor are engaged in economic development planning, specifically transit-oriented development (TOD), which includes a mix of housing, retail, office space and entertainment within short walking distance of high-quality public transit.
Even before it is scheduled to open later this year, Meriden's new rail station has spurred several TOD projects, including the construction of three mixed-use developments that have a total of 295 new residential units and 31,000 sq. ft. of commercial space; a new Transit Center; a 273-space parking garage; a 14-acre town green; and the demolition of the Mills public housing project and the former Record Journal building. Ongoing public and private investment in Meriden's TOD projects exceeds $150 million. One of these new developments, 24 Colony Street, was completed in December 2016 and will include a 273-space parking garage, with 225 spaces dedicated for Hartford Line riders. The newly-opened 24 Colony Street is the first new construction in downtown Meriden in 30 years and is just steps from the new Hartford Line train station.
“With this level of direct and connecting service linking the region, municipalities along the Hartford Line will become magnets for growth — ideal places to live and relocate businesses that depend on regional markets and travel,” Malloy said.
Over the past three years, the Malloy administration has awarded over $12 million in grants to municipalities across the state to encourage the growth of TOD projects, including in several towns that are located along the Hartford Line.