A new bus line between New Haven and Boston starting at $1 might sound like the pinnacle of no-hassle transportation, but travel between Yale and Massachusetts could be made even easier now that Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has released $30 million in federal funding for expanding Amtrak rail services.
The rail project will increase the frequency of trips between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., via Hartford to every 30 minutes during peak rush-hour periods and every 60 minutes throughout the day. Although the funding has been released, Yalies will not be able to reap the benefits until these changes are implemented in 2016. There are currently only 13 services daily each week day between the two cities. But while the number of train rides will sharply increase, the new schedule will require new track work and signal cable installation, which may disrupt currently scheduled services, said Judd Everhart, the director of communications at the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“Improving passenger rail service — and our overall transportation network — is one of the keys to improving our economy and our business climate,” Malloy said in a press release Monday. “Upon completion, this rail line will have a direct and immediate impact on congestion through the I-91 corridor, a benefit for Connecticut and all of our Northeast neighbors.”
The funding will double track for a 5.8-mile stretch between Hartford and Windsor, which will eliminate the need to stagger trains on what is now a single track, Everhart said. He added that the Department of Transportation would “do everything” it could to minimize service disruptions during the work.
Those assurances did not convince the four Amtrak passengers interviewed at Union Station on Tuesday morning, all of who were bound for destinations along the New Haven-Springfield line. While all four welcomed the new funding, they also said they would not be pleased with any delayed or canceled services during the construction period, and two added they wished Amtrak fares were lower.
“Amtrak isn’t cheap. [These additional services are] the least they can do to make it easier for everybody,” said Patrick Gory, a New Haven resident heading to Hartford.
But Everhart said fares are unlikely to drop. He acknowledged that if fares are not affordable, people will use the service less, but said he expects demand to gradually pick up as people become aware of the more frequent rail service.
Rail services try to balance the cost of operations with what commuters can afford, Everhart added.
The state expects design work for the upgrade to the 62-mile rail corridor between New Haven and Springfield to be finished by 2013, before a 2016 service launch.