| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – For Congressman Richard Neal, the new Hartford Line from CTrail is an example of how economic stimulus funding passed during the Obama Administration is benefitting the region.
Neal made his remarks on June 15 at the opening ceremonies for the commuter rail line that links new and Hartford CT with Springfield.
The congressman reminded the large audience at Union Station of how stimulus funding had been criticized at the time. Connecticut used the funding to improve train tracks and establish the service.
Various transportation officials praised the opening of the rail line. MassDOT Rail Administrator Astrid Glen said, “This is a remarkable event in a wonderful place.” She added the rail line will “overcome artificial barriers between the two states.”
According to information supplied by CT rail, there will be 12 trips daily servicing Springfield. The trains will stop in Windsor Locks, Windsor, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, State Street in New Haven and Union Station in New Haven.
A round-trip ticket between Springfield and Hartford is $12. The tickets can be used on Amtrak trains serving the corridor as well with the exception of the Vermonter (Amtrak trains 54,55,56.57) trains.
There are ticket vending machines in Springfield’s Union station and one- way tickets can be purchased onboard CTrail Hartford Line trains, but not on Amtrak trains.
For this service the state of Connecticut purchased used cars, which were not compliant with laws for lavatories for the disabled. Therefore those cars offer no lavatory services. The statement from CTrail reads, “We are making upgrades to the onboard restrooms to meet current ADA accessibility standards. During this fleet modification program, no restrooms will be available on CTrail trains. This work will continue through early 2019. Until that time, we encourage customers to use the temporary restroom facilities at each station before traveling. Note: Amtrak trains have accessible restrooms onboard.”
The trains have a maximum operating speed of 110 mile per hour and the trip time from Springfield to Hartford is a little more than half an hour. Between Hartford and new Haven the listed trip time is 46 minutes.
According to a statement made by the offices of Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “over 10,300 people rode the CTrail Hartford Line during its opening day of service on Saturday, June 16.”
This reporter wanted to get a first-hand look at the rail service and took advantage of one of the free trains that ran this past weekend.
I chose a round trip from Union Station in Springfield to Hartford on Sunday morning thinking the demand would be potentially decreased on Father’s Day.
I was wrong. The CTrail cars of the 9:55 train filled quickly with people making the trip south.
Some of the passengers voiced their concern the train was going slowly out of the station and then down to the piece of track near the Basketball Hall of Fame, as they had read about the potential speed the train could reach.
Once past the Hall of Fame, and onto the tracks bordering Longmeadow, the train sped up and one passenger who was tracking the trains speed on a phone app, declared it was going 62 miles per hour.
The train with its large windows offers views one can see or have the time to appreciate from the interstate. One was the lock system at Windsor Locks, technology from the early 19th century. It was constructed to allow boats to traverse the Enfield rapids.
Another was a beautiful scene of the Connecticut River, shocking low with anglers in waders standing deep into the river with the water only reaching their waists.
The trip was quick and uneventful – exactly what a passenger would want.
Upon arriving in Hartford, I walked through Bushnell Park and then returned to the station. Downtown Hartford on a Sunday morning was as quiet as downtown Springfield.
The ride back, this time on an Amtrak train, wasn’t as comfortable. The demand was so great it was standing room only and the two cars were packed.
How ridership will develop has yet to be seen, but at least on the free opening weekend, thousands of potential riders were willing to try the new service.