BERLIN - Praise and excitement were in the air Monday for the delayed debut of the new Hartford Line commuter rail service.
Proposed in 2009, the $769.1 million Hartford Line, paid for through state and federal funds, provides train service between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., with stops at Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor and Windsor Locks.
The project brought with it new stations in Berlin, Wallingford and Meriden, with improvements at the Hartford and the New Haven State Street Station.
It also added a second track between New Haven and Hartford and is looking to add a second track for between Hartford and Springfield.
“It’s the best thing ever, honestly,” said Sef Ben, of New Britain, who was checking out the new Berlin station.
He said he works in New Haven and Northwest Massachusetts, so the line gives him the option of not needing to drive everywhere.
The new commuter line brings an increase from just 12 Amtrak trains running between New Haven and Springfield to 37 between New Haven and Hartford, and 24 continuing to Springfield.
Both the Amtrak trains and the new CTrail Hartford trains - those operated by the state through management from TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts - are accessible on the line.
Trains will travel up to 110 mph, so a trip from New Haven is expected to take 81 minutes, with trains scheduled to run about every 45 minutes.
A one-way ticket from Berlin to New Haven costs $6, while a ticket to Springfield costs $8.
Tickets can be bought online at hartfordline.com, or via touch-screen machines at stations.
Parking at the Berlin station accommodates 220 cars and is free until Sept. 4, after which it will cost $2 daily or $20 monthly.
“It’s convenient,” said Mike Sullivan, who said he now doesn’t have to drive over an hour to Springfield to visit family,
Craig Lentini, the owner of Tavern on the Trax, a restaurant next to the station, said he’s excited about the patrons that new ridership could bring to his business and others in the area.
John Mattie, a former Berlin resident who now lives in Farmington, said the new line “allows business to get a greater pool of employees,” by allowing employees to easily travel from greater distances.
He said he was pleasantly surprised to see how cheap his ticket to New Haven was and was glad he didn’t have to drive there anymore. “My only criticism is we probably should’ve done this 20 years ago.”
Future stations are expected in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.
Over the weekend, 21,850 riders rode the trains for free, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy.