Malloy, Amtrak, feds vow progress, cooperation on Hartford Line

Washington – Gov. Dannel Malloy met with Amtrak and federal transportation officials Thursday, and agreed to keep talking — but with less rancor — to resolve key issues that have delayed a New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project.

Malloy and Amtrak have fought over cost overruns and management issues on upgrades to the line and construction of a second track from New Haven to Hartford. The project is aimed at providing high-frequency service between the cities by the end of 2016.

On Thursday, the governor said he met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Federal Railroad Administration chief Sarah Feinberg, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman, Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia and several members of the Connecticut congressional delegation.

“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,” Malloy said in a joint statement with Amtrak and others involved in the negotiations.

Connecticut has spent about $244 million on the project. The federal government has committed about $191 million.

In May, Malloy wrote Foxx, asking him to intercede because project costs had ballooned to $615 million, the state had run out of money and completion of the project was “in jeopardy.”

“Amtrak has significantly impeded Connecticut’s ability to manage (the project) and deliver it on time,” Malloy wrote.

The governor’s letter to Foxx included a litany of complaints against Amtrak, including “an inability to provide detailed budgets and manage its manpower effectively” or “maintain the…rail corridor in good repair.” The governor also said the state should take over the rail line if Amtrak did not speed its work on the project.

The joint statement Thursday said all parties agreed the Hartford line was a “top priority.”

“Today’s meeting was both positive and productive. It was clear that all of the stakeholders in this process . . . agree that this project must get done,” the statement said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who attended Thursday’s meeting, said “essentially the decision was to move forward with much greater cooperation…and put aside the rancor.”

“Additional specific steps coming from the meeting will emerge in the coming weeks,” Blumenthal said.

He also said that, eventually, “there is a realistic hope of more funding” from the federal government for the Hartford Line.

“The reason for today’s meeting was to make sure everybody is collaborating,” Blumenthal said.

But it’s unclear who will be responsible for the project’s cost overruns, which are now about $180 million.

After Malloy wrote Foxx, Amtrak agreed to replace some of its trains with buses to allow workers more time on the tracks.

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