New Haven – Hartford – Springfield Commuter Rail Line

New Haven–Hartford–Springfield rail line
Signal system construction work in Hartford in May 2013
Type Commuter rail
Termini New Haven
Stations 12
Opening 2015
Owner Amtrak
Operator(s) Connecticut Department of Transportation, Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Character Commuter Rail
Rolling stock Push pull coaches
Line length 60.5 mi (97.4 km)
Track gauge
Route map

The New Haven–Hartford–Springfield commuter rail line (officially the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program) is a planned commuter rail line with a southern terminus at Union Station in New Haven, Connecticut, and a northern terminus at Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States.[1] Construction of the line has been entirely funded on the Massachusetts side, including $70 million for renovations to Springfield's grand 1926 Union Station.[2]

As of October 2011, passenger rail access along this corridor is provided by Amtrak, which runs 6-7 weekday and 7-8 weekend trips in each direction on its New Haven–Springfield Line, usually through transfers to a two or three car Shuttle at New Haven's Union Station. Service runs outside usual work commuting hours for northbound passengers - the first train arrives in Hartford at 9:27 a.m. Evening Southbound service leaves Hartford before 8 p.m. Currently, all trips require advance reservations and ticket purchases.[3]

By April 2011, Connecticut's portion of the commuter line was two-thirds funded. The state sought the $227 million necessary to complete the northern portion of the line from the $2.4 billion in Federal funds that Florida rejected to fund its own high-speed rail project.[4] According to Connecticut Governor Malloy, the Knowledge Corridor line will reach speeds up to 110 mph.[4] The line is expected to be operational late in 2016.[5]

On August 15, 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration granted a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the line's environmental assessment - a major step towards the obligation of $121 million in federal funding for the line.[6]

History of the project

Since 1994, the Connecticut Department of Transportation has been studying Amtrak's Inland Route for operating commuter rail service. The original plan approved by the 1996 Connecticut General Assembly Rail Task Force as a demonstration project would have run limited service operating during peak periods.[7] Current plans call for a more substantial timetable and added improvements. Due to starts and stops in the process, as well as slow progress, the project has been delayed considerably.

One source of delay for re-establishment of this commuter rail line was lack of widespread support in the New Haven region. Although reestablishing this service was briefly mentioned in the South Central Regional Council of Government's January 2001 Long Range Mobility Plan [8] it was not until 2003 that this commuter service provision began to consistently listed among key transportation priorities in the annual Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce Legislative Agenda.[9]

Another source of delay was the 2002–2005 New Haven–Hartford–Springfield Commuter Rail Implementation Study by ConnDOT and Wilbur Smith Associates. While this study did call for the establishment of commuter service along the line, the proposed schedules did not link well with those of the New Haven Line.[10] Also according to its revised ConnDOT ridership prediction model, the report estimated only eight riders would board all morning trains at New Haven's Union Station for Hartford and points in-between.[11] The result was a temporary downgrading of support for the project.

However, on a typical morning, the first Amtrak train arriving in Hartford from New Haven at 9:20 a.m. outside of typical work commuting hours has at least 30 passengers.[12] Moreover, a March 8–13, 2004 New Haven Register/Sacred Heart University transportation issues telephone study among a random sample of 801 Greater New Haven residents determined that 38.1% would be "very or somewhat likely" to patronize the line,[13] indicating a renewed interest in the line.

Current plan

The plan calls for new stations and several sections of the line to be double-tracked again. (The line was double-tracked into the late 1990s,[14] when one track was removed.) The Berlin/Kensington station was recently rebuilt with a new platform, providing room for an additional track.

In January 2010, $40 million of stimulus funds were approved to double-track 11 miles of the corridor.[15][16] In July 2010, Governor Jodi Rell asked the Connecticut State Bond Commission to authorize borrowing $260 million in an effort to attract additional federal matching funds, to double-track the remainder of the corridor, construct freight sidings, and improve signaling. These upgrades, together with new rolling stock, should allow for two-way service during peak hours at speeds from 20 to 80 miles per hour.[17] On August 17, 2010, Connecticut lawmakers authorized borrowing the $260 million.[18] In November 2010, Governor Rell announced that Connecticut received an additional $120.9 million in funds from the Federal government to fund the project.[19]

As of April 2011, Connecticut State officials have applied for $227 million from the federal government that would complete track improvements between Hartford and Springfield, Mass. ConnDOT applied for the money to the Federal Railroad Administration, part of $2.4 billion that the governor of Florida rejected because of the spending it would require from his budget.[4]

The Massachusetts portion of the Knowledge Corridor line has already been fully funded by a $70 million Federal grant, and an additional $70 million to renovate Springfield's Union Station, which closed down in 1973 following the completion of I-91.[20]

A presentation given at various public information meetings in December 2008 identified service levels under both "Start Up" and "Full Build" options:[21]

Start Up
  • 16 trains daily, each direction (15 on weekends)
  • 30 minute headways during peak hours
  • 1-2 hour headways off-peak
  • service provided 15 hours daily
Full Build
  • 35 trains daily, each direction
  • 15 minute headways during peak hours
  • 1 hour headways off-peak
  • service provided 20 hours daily

The above service figures include continuation of existing Amtrak service on the line.

Planned station stops

  • Springfield, MA

Rolling stock

The line currently operates with Amtrak GE Genesis locomotives and Amfleet coaches and cab cars. When the commuter rail service starts operation, the current Shore Line East EMD GP40-2 locomotives and the rebuilt VRE coaches and cab cars will be used on the New Haven-Springfield line. There was recently a proposal by Bombardier to have the DOT buy double-decker trains for the Springfield Line that could operate into New York Penn Station. The idea was dropped by the DOT. There is, though, talk of operating some of the trains into Grand Central Terminal. There are plans to, eventually, replace the GP40-2H engines. Should electrification ever occur, the new M8s from Metro-North's New Haven Line would be able to serve the line.

See also



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