The goal of the new Hartford line is to get cars off the roads during the work week and connect Connecticut commuters from the shoreline to the capital city and beyond. However, this weekend, passengers who hopped aboard the new Hartford rail line were looking to ride for pleasure.
“The last time I rode north from Hartford was 1958. When I was three years old,” explained Roger Ristau of Willimantic.
Ristau, a self-described train enthusiast, wanted to recreate his ride to Springfield, Massachusetts 60-years ago. The inaugural ride attracted many train aficionados, like Gary Grahl, who drove in from New York City to be on the first train out of the station.
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“During my life I’ve been at closings. The last train here, the last trolley there and it’s nice to be at a place where something is new. I’d like to be on the first instead of the last,” said Grahl.
Mike and Kam Perotti had a day of errands and household chores planned, but when they heard about the free ride, they decided to hop aboard and celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary in the Big Apple instead.
“We’re going to take the train into New Haven and then from New Haven into New York,” said Kam.
After this weekend, a one-way ticket will cost eight-dollars.
“Although there were some trains on this line they were relatively infrequent and expensive, people tended not to use it because it was expensive. What we’ve done is lower the fairs,” explained Rich Andreski, CTDOT Transit Bureau Chief.
The $768-million-dollar project was paid for with state and federal funds and took three years to build.
Officials say the train will take 45 minutes to get to Hartford from New Haven, making three stops along the way in Wallingford, Meriden, and Berlin, and 81 minutes from New Haven to Springfield, stopping in Windsor and Windsor Locks. From there, passengers will be able to board others lines and travel even further.
With children in New York City and Boston, the Perrottis expect to be frequent passengers.
“I’ve always thought it would be great to have a train from Hartford to New York and Hartford to Boston so when I heard about this I was super excited,” Mike said.
“Although the free rides end this weekend, free parking will continue at some of the stations along the Hartford line until September 3rd.