A joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts has been selected as the service provider that will operate and manage service on the CTrail Hartford Line — the passenger rail service currently under construction that will provide more frequent train service between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, Conn. 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.
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 will also be direct bus connections to the Bradley Airport Flyer and to CTfastrak.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Construction Schedule Update
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 feet of track per hour (500 ties) in ideal conditions, at over one mile 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 Monday to begin the installation of nine additional miles of double-track in the Newington and Berlin areas. When the TCM completes this work, 50 miles of the 62-mile corridor will be complete.
Following the completion of the double-tracking, which will include the installation of four additional miles of double-track between Hartford and Windsor, it is anticipated that the Hartford Line will begin service in May 2018.
Improved Station Accommodations and 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 underway 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 square feet 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.