Shore Line East will soon supplement Amtrak and Metro-North rail service in New Haven.

On Dec. 17, the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to begin Shore Line East service between Old Saybrook and Stamford, including stops in New Haven and Bridgeport. Despite these plans, negotiation hurdles with the Metropolitan Transit Authority unions still remain.

The state Transportation Strategy Board allocated $1.55 million to a two-year pilot of the extended service, which will include two trains during both the morning and evening peak commute hours on business days.

The trains would stop at the new downtown station, offering the Yale and downtown community an alternative to Union Station for western coastline rail service.

The additional rail service aims to reduce traffic on Interstate 95 and to alleviate the load on Metro-North’s strained New Haven line, the nation’s single largest rail line with 110,000 daily passengers. Shore Line East transports just 1,200 passengers each day.

Through increased passenger levels, the program also could ease financial losses for Shore Line East, which currently loses $24 per passenger. Comparatively, Metro-North loses only $2 per passenger.

Passengers currently relying on Shore Line East to reach Stamford must switch to Metro-North in New Haven or use busses, said Judy Gott, chairwoman of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area.

The year-old Transportation Strategy Board, which will incorporate the five TIA initial reports into an initial strategy plan by Jan. 15, designated $13.52 million of its $35 million budget on Nov. 2 to a total of 11 projects.

The initial strategy plan will provide a framework for the state’s transportation strategy for up to the next two decades, which the board must complete by Jan. 15, 2003. Based upon the board’s initial plan, each TIA will issue a final report during the coming year.

“We’ll learn from that what they’re looking for during the coming year,” Gott said.

–Marc Wiznia