HARTFORD - A long-awaited commuter rail line linking New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Massachusetts opens this weekend with two days of free rides for the public.
Officials from the two states were riding trains Friday to a ceremony in Hartford to launch the CTrail Hartford Line.
The service along the Interstate 91 corridor will feature 17 daily trains in each direction between Hartford and New Haven and 12 round trips from Hartford to Springfield, where there is just a single track.
Eight of those round trips will be operated by the state of Connecticut; the others will be Amtrak trains.
Hartford Line tickets, which cost $8 for a 45-minute trip from New Haven to Hartford and $12.75 for an 80-minute ride from New Haven to Springfield, are valid on both.
The trains can reach speeds of 110 mph.
The $765 million project, which began more than a decade ago, included the construction of 21 new bridges and the laying of 21 miles of new track, allowing for a second working track between New Haven and Hartford.
The project was funded mostly through state bonding, with $191 million coming from three federal grants.
There have been some early problems. About half of the trains, those operated by CTrail, use 30-year old rail cars with bathrooms that are not accessible to the disabled. The Federal Railroad Administration recently ruled those bathrooms cannot be open to anyone until that problem is fixed.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation says that work won't be completed until next February.
“We do not expect a significant impact on ridership, as this will be only temporary, but of course, time will tell,” the DOT said in a statement.
Connecticut's Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was among those riding the rail line to Hartford from New Haven Friday morning, where he was to meet with Massachusetts officials, including U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, another Democrat, who caught the train from Springfield. Both trains were to break a ceremonial ribbon upon arriving at Hartford's Union Station.
The trains will run from two stations in New Haven, with stops in Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks (with bus connections to Bradley International Airport), and Springfield's Union Station.