Gov. Dannel Malloy met with Amtrak representatives and federal transportation officials on Thursday to discuss the new Hartford Line, a project facing significant delays and a more-than-$150-million budget overrun.
The vision for the Hartford line is a second track of rail service between New Haven and Hartford. It is part of the larger New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program. NHHS was formed as a result of a partnership between Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the states of Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts — with the goal of providing residents with high-speed rail service for their daily commutes. The new line will connect with other existing rail lines, including the Metro-North commuter rail and the Amtrak Acela high-speed rail service. Work is being done on these existing lines to improve signals, grade crossings and train stations.
“The expansion of commuter rail in Connecticut is ultimately going to bring more infrastructure and opportunities for New Haven residents,” said Doug Hausladen ’04, director of transportation for the city of New Haven.
But, there have been significant setbacks to the project since its inception 10 years ago. The official design was finalized in October 2014, with completion scheduled for late 2016. But it is now unlikely that the service will be ready by the predetermined date.
In a May letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Malloy expressed his distress with Amtrak, largely because of the company’s failure to stick to a firm schedule and budget.
“Amtrak has impeded Connecticut’s ability to cost-effectively manage the NHHS Rail Program and deliver it on time,” Malloy wrote in his letter. “The result is that the project is grossly over budget and significantly behind schedule.”
Amtrak has increased the original project budget of $365 million to $615 million. Connecticut has committed $244 million of state funds, which is $70 million over the planned $174 million. In his letter, Malloy said that the state has reached its funding limit, which could be a potential crisis for the delivery of the project.
In addition to a budget overrun, the project is significantly delayed. The service, which was supposed to be ready by the end of 2016, has already been postponed to late 2017.
“Connecticut has made a firm commitment to the stakeholders along the corridor and to the FRA that the enhanced rail service will begin in late 2016,” Malloy wrote. “However, Amtrak does not seem to share that commitment and they refuse to give any firm time estimates for completion of the project.”
To alleviate tensions between project stakeholders and discuss the current situation of the rail line, Malloy met with Foxx and Amtrak executives in the nation’s capital.
A joint statement released by those present characterized the meeting as both “positive and productive.” It added that all the stakeholders in the process agree that the project must get done.
The one-paragraph statement, however, did not outline how they plan to face their current challenges. It also did not specify a new deadline or budget increase for the project.
“By the end of the month, we expect to make progress on a path acceptable to all parties that can help move this project forward,” the statement read.