Rell: NL to get second daily commuter train

New London - Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Wednesday that commuter rail service to the city will be expanded from one stop a day at Union Station to two.

Beginning Feb. 16, Shore Line East will begin service on a second round-trip train between New London and New Haven, according to Rell and Amtrak officials. Rell also promised that four additional round-trip trains out of New London will be added later this year.

The added train will leave New London at 5:53 a.m., arrive in New Haven at 7:03 a.m., and continue to Stamford, arriving there at 7:54 a.m. The return train will leave Stamford at 4:46 p.m. and arrive at New Haven at 5:42 p.m. and New London at 6:52 p.m.

"It is time to give the commuters in Southeastern Connecticut what they have been asking for: more service to New London," Rell said in a press release. "This is a crucial first step toward passenger rail expansion, and I am committed to making this happen."

But members of the One More Stop Coalition, which has been advocating for the state to expand rail service to New London, were less than enthusiastic.

"Call me back when they get train service to New London," said Todd O'Donnell, a member of the coalition and the owner of Union Station. "This is what we worked for? One more train?"

Richard Caruso, chairman of the coalition, said "any sort of movement is good'' but called the one-train expansion "nuts."

"Is that supposed to placate everyone?'' he asked.

Caruso said the state has committed to expanded parking for commuters in Old Saybrook, where 22 trains a day pull out of the station heading south. It is also building new stations in Orange and West Haven.

The Obama administration also announced last week a $40 million grant to expand rail service from New Haven to Hartford.

"One additional train certainly does not make a whole lot of sense,'' Caruso said.

State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie said the additional train is a good first step, noting that the four more runs will added to the schedule in April.

"We're working with the train station owner," Marie said. "We've had a dialogue with the mayor about parking. This is great news. There was a lot of work to get done to bring us to this point."

O'Donnell said he hopes he can come to an agreement with Shore Line East and DOT or Amtrak about using the station. "But that hasn't happened yet,'' he said.

Shore Line East, the rail service between New Haven and New London, is operated on behalf of the state DOT by Amtrak. In addition to two stations in New Haven - Union Station and State Street Station - there are stops in Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook and New London.

Rell said the introduction of more Shore Line East service has been challenging because of the need to schedule additional trains to operate over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor tracks and the necessary approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection for additional train movements over movable railroad bridges that affect commercial and recreational marine traffic.

"We now have an agreement with Amtrak, and I have directed the state Department of Transportation to continue to work with the Connecticut Marine Trades Association to establish a monitoring and performance measures program that strikes a balance for all requirements," Rell said.

"I am confident we can make this work," said James P. Redeker, chief of DOT's Bureau of Public Transportation, pledging to continue working closely with the marine trades association to balance its expectations with those of commuters.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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