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WWL: Reality of the Rail - New Haven to Springfield
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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What's the hold up?


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48:56 minutes (23.49 MB)
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It comes up every time we talk about transportation and infrastructure - a Springfield to New Haven communter line.  Is it possible?  The proposed line would connect three cities along the I-91 corrider - and link together suburban communities along the route.  It's seen by advocates as a vital step toward spurring business, unclogging the highways, and creating a more sustainable region.  Today, Where We Live, we'll dig into rail proposal, myth and reality.  

Join the conversation!  Is the commuter rail a "transformative" project?  Does it make the right kind of investment in transportation?

DOT Commissioner says Amtrack cooperation is key

Governor Rell says plans for a Springfield to New Haven commuter rail line are not ready to take advantage of federal stimulus money, but state transportation officials hope a partnership with Amtrak will fast-track the project.

Amtrak already runs a route from New Haven to Hartford, but it takes about 55 minutes for the 40 mile trip. It owns the track where a new commuter line would run. State Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie is hoping Amtrak's support within the Obama administration will work to Connecticut's advantage. 

"We think that Amtrak is positioned well to argue their case with us to make the investment necessary on this important corridor"

Marie says he met with Amtrak officials last week to discuss the line. They plan to meet again in Washington later this month.

"So what we're trying to do now is to create some momentum now around making a reinvestment so that we can get a really good, quick commute."

Back in the 1990s, Amtrak actually dismantled some of the railways that will be necessary by converting double-track rail beds and and bridges down to a single track.  

Rep. David McCluskey of West Hartford says Governor Rell is wrong when she says this commuter line isn't a shovel ready project. He says some of the necessary work, like the restoration of double rail beds, could start immediately with the federal influx of cash. 

"Amtrak also has stimulus in the package, so Amtrak, working with the state of Connecticut could put in stimulus money to start moving on this project."

A legislative study last year estimated it will cost $291 million to get the Springfield to New Haven commuter line up and running. 

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Related Content:

Maglev in 24 months in China

Great show and I appreciate the opportunity to give a perspective from north of the border

I did want to respond to one of the comments on the show that asked (in effect) how is it that China was able to deploy their maglev system in 24 months while it takes us years to build much simpler systems. In the maglev example, China essentially disposed of the entire environmental review process - government officials basically knocked on resident's doors, said "we're building a maglev system, you need to move out by this date because we're going to knock your house down" and built the system.

Clearly there has to be some middle ground between "24-months/no review" and the "15 years/lets review every excruciating detail over and over again" but China is not necessarily an example we want to follow here.

Listener email from Mary

Another great program.

Please bring Representative McCluskey back for a program about the potential of green infrastructure to revitalize urban landscapes and water quality in the Greater Hartford area.

Note that Connecticut's focus on transportation tends to blot out other issues, such as environmental health. Smart growth advocate marginalize issues/voices that contribute other dimensions - such as the need to build beautiful parks and to address water quality and quanity/flooding issues when building high-density neighborhoods.

People live far outside of urban areas not just because of good schools or safety - people live outside urban areas because an aspiration to live near "nature". This aspiration needs to be addressed in the planning and design of high-density, smart growth (new urbanist) neighborhoods at transportation hubs.

Also note that Springfield is (or was) the headquarters of Peter Pan Buslines. It is evidently no mistake that the train lines were distrupted at this point -- there was a clear business interest. Perhaps a coalition of businesses committed to train commuter service would help move this slow project forward.


Mary Rickel Pelletier
Project Director, Park River Watershed Revitalization Initiative in collaboration with the Farmington River Watershed Association

Listener email from William

Here's a question for today's show:

The New Haven - Springfield line is called the "Knowledge Corridor" 
by many, because it will link up the many research parks and universities and colleges in the wider north-south region.  Yet the commuter line will miss Middletown, home of Wesleyan University, one of the state's premier liberal arts institution, and (as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch noted on the show yesterday) a very successful small city in its own right with a thriving commercial center (and, I might  add, a lively arts and culture scene -- see the Middletown Eye).   While many in Middletown welcome the intensification of the commuter rail possibilities in the "Knowledge Corridor", at the same time we fear that we (along with the towns along the southern stretch of the Connecticut River) are going to be bypassed by this important new infrastructure development.  Are transit linkages between Middletown (and Middlesex County) with the rest of the state and the region part  of the development scenarios that are being discussed in Hartford?   And if not, how can we make sure that they are?


William (Vijay) Pinch

Listener email from Keisha

I lived in London for 5 years and easily traveled the country by public transportation.. but it wasn't just because they had the rail stations and the rail service. It was because it was seamless... I had ONE pass that let me get to school or work by connecting between bus, train, and light rail as needed. I also had clearly posted schedules, well-lit walkways and sidewalks with pedestrian right-of- way crossings at every point.

They made it easy to say, "it's easier to take the train... driving would just be a hassle."

Thank you for this show!
Keisha, Danbury

Listener email from K

Just wanted to mention that while living in Europe in the late 90's I learned that workplaces there  opened at 9 and closed at 5 or 5:30 to accommodate travel time and life-balance. I've tried many times to incorporate car-pooling or public transportation into my work-life here but no one works set hours anymore and most offices expect you to be flexible on a day to day basis. Europeans, by having regular hours, also seemed to have more time to go out in the evenings and again, use the rail system to get to the theaters, restaurants or other events... so the rails  and light rails were being used all day!

Rail into Bradley airport

 Is there a possibility to extend rail directly into the Bradley terminal?

One-seat passage to Bradley airport

People recognize that direct passenger rail into airport terminals is extremely

convenient and is a time-saver.  What can we do to bring about a one-seat ticket

into Bradley Airport for passengers on the Springfield - New Haven commuter line?

This together with a rail link along the Waterbury, Bristol, New Britain,

Hartford line would be a great start toward a useful transportation system.

Please make rail service to Bradley Airport!

I am hoping someone who has the power to make this happen sees this.  I live in New Haven and I travel a lot.  I almost always fly out of New York, largely because I have no car and it is easier and cheaper for me to get to any of the airports in New York than to Bradley.  A lot of people I know are in this situation.  (There are airport shuttles but they are expensive and have poor service.)

We desparately need decent public transportation between the major cities in Connecticut and Bradley Airport.  Why can't a train stop between New Haven and Springfield stop at Bradley?  Even better would be if there were public transportation between the major cities and White Plains Airport too.  The New York airports are overloaded and the other airports in the region are underutilized.  Transportation is a major issue!


I agree with the comment that this would only be a small part of bigger picture. Most companies are not located close to any current rail lines. At least on the shoreline especially in Stamford companies provide shuttle busess. But this only helps employees from large companies. The shoreline has train stations in each town along the way. So this would be a huge undertaking to ever be even remotely as successful as the current train service.