Construction of 2nd track begins on New Haven-Springfield line, with buses set as alternatives



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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Construction of a second track for the expanded rail line from New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts, began Monday, and commuters will be bused along the route for the next year.

The project will boost north-south rail transportation from six daily round-trip trains to 17 a day south of Hartford and 12 north of Hartford. About $435 million is available, said John Bernick, assistant rail administrator at the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Of that amount, $191 million is from Washington, D.C., and the remainder is state funding, he said.

The increased number of trains is intended not only to boost economic development in central Connecticut. It's also part of a broader web of rail line expansions between Springfield and Boston and north to Vermont and Montreal.

"It puts Hartford right in the middle of this great rail infrastructure," Bernick said. "It's huge. When you discuss it with businesses, their eyes really light up. It all starts right now with this critical track bed."

The rail line in Connecticut is currently split between single and double track. Funding would add double track and upgrade stations in Berlin, Hartford, Meriden and Wallingford, Bernick said.

The Connecticut portion of the project from North Haven to Windsor is expected to be completed by 2017.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in May that Amtrak, which runs trains along the route, has "impeded Connecticut's ability to cost effectively manage" the project. He said it was "grossly over budget and significantly behind schedule." The opening date had been moved from late 2016, and the cost increased to $615 million from $365 million, he said in a letter.

Amtrak said in a statement that rail officials have a "different view of the circumstances" but share Malloy's "desire to effectively advance the improvements" to the New Haven-Springfield corridor.

Malloy's proposal to revamp transportation, including rail, highway and Connecticut's ports, dovetails with President Barack Obama's efforts to increase funding for high-speed rail and intra-city rail transportation. The New England plan is to connect the region's states with Canada and, using Metro-North Railroad in the south, to New York City.

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This story has been corrected to show that funding is $435 million, not $420 million.

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