CT Progressive Democrat

News and Views from CT State Representative David McCluskey / Democrat - West Hartford

Friday, August 10, 2007

CT should lead & create a NY/NY/New England Commuter & Freight Rail Authority

I commend Governor Rell for exploring the opportunity of running commuter rail service into Penn Station, NYC. Our main challenge is getting cooperation from AMTRAK, which operates Penn Station and owns the Hells Gate Rail Line from the New Haven Line into Penn.

The advantages of having such service are many. It would allow CT commuters easier access to the west side of Manhattan which is targeted for significant growth. More significantly, we could use existing rail cars/locomotives such as those which run on the New Jersey Transit Line - instead of our unique M-8/current New Haven Line rail cars which are the only ones in the world I believe which run on both overhead AC line and third rail DC line. If we could get AMTRAK approval, we could start such a service faster than we will get the new M-8 rail cars from Kawasaki. We should work with our Federal Delegation to aggressively pursue this Penn Station option.

But we need to think even bigger and bolder - a NJ/NY/New England Commuter & Freight Rail Authority to coordinate and accelerate rail development in the region. NJ Transit, the MTA and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are expanding their rail systems. New Hampshire has just established a Rail Transit Authority to reestablish passenger service to Boston. Connecticut is in the middle of most of this activity and we should move aggressively to connect the dots. Just as the MTA is working on a rail connection to the Stewart International Airport in Orange County - 1 seat, 75 minute trip from Penn Station, we need to get Hartford and its airport, Bradley connected to the rest of this growing rail service NOW. The best way to revitalize Hartford is to connect it to our nation's economic capital - NYC - with a one seat ride in less than 2 hours.

Again, this is not easy since AMTRAK once again owns the rail line from Springfield to New Haven. The line is mostly single track, old, not-electrified and has too many at-grade rail crossings. But CT could take the lead and buy/lease double-decker passenger cars from New Jersey Transit or from one of the manufacturers. Within the next several years, diesel/overhead electric locomotives will be available which will allow a one seat ride from Hartford/Bradley Airport to Penn Station.

Now that Governor Rell has asked Pitney Bowes Chair/CEO Michael Critelli to head a DOT Reorganization Taskforce, CT must step up its efforts to get out of our economic cul de sac by working with our surrounding states in reestablishing our commuter and freight rail service.