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Blumenthal Secures Amtrak's Commitment that Hartford Line Will Be Completed By 2018 With No More Cost Overruns

Proposed Hartford Line, Which Stretches Over 60.5 Miles of Track From New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts, Will Create Jobs and Dramatically Expand Transportation Options for Commuters in Connecticut and Across New England.But Problems Have Plagued the Project’s Construction Causing Cost Overruns and Timing Delays. With Amtrak Owning the Track and Exercising Enormous Control in the Project’s Construction, Blumenthal Yesterday Pressed Amtrak President to Commit to Finishing the Line on the Se

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) yesterday during a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on passenger rail secured Amtrak’s commitment that the Hartford Line will be completed by 2018 with no more cost overruns. The proposed Hartford Line, which stretches over 60.5 miles of track from New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts, will create jobs and dramatically expand transportation options for commuters in Connecticut and across New England. But problems have plagued the project’s construction causing cost overruns and timing delays. With Amtrak owning the track and exercising enormous control in the project’s construction, Blumenthal pressed Amtrak President Joseph Boardman to commit to finishing the line on the set budget and timetable.

Blumenthal and Boardman said the following at the hearing:

Blumenthal: “The state of Connecticut is working closely with Amtrak to complete the Hartford Line, which is an expanded and dramatically rebuilt railroad facility between Springfield, New Haven, and other parts. This line will create a huge number of jobs and make it easier for communities to get across Connecticut and get around New England. It will nearly triple the rail traffic and reduce trip times. It is a project that needs to be completed. It needs to be completed as soon as possible. There’s simply no question about it. Amtrak has a unique and outsized role in this project and you own the rail line and exercise enormous control in construction management, so Connecticut, with very limited control, is depending on Amtrak to do its job here. Connecticut taxpayers will largely pay for this line and will use it.”

“What we have is a massive undertaking with a budget of $574 million and of course that number reflects some cost overruns as you are well aware. Many will be borne by CT residents well beyond the initial cost of 365 million and the deadline of completion has slipped from 2016 to 2018. I know we have engaged in many discussions. They have been productive and important. Your team is certainly receptive to suggestions made by our delegation and our governor. I want to thank you and Secretary Foxx for meeting with us earlier this year and your continuing dialogue with us. It seems like such a simple basic solution to complete a project like this on budget by a certain date, which Amtrak has now agreed to do. Shouldn’t this be standard practice for all Amtrak projects in all states and can you assure us that this budget and this timetable in Connecticut will be met?”

Mr. Boardman: “Yes, it should be standard practice. It hasn’t always been standard practice…and don’t ask Tim any of that right now with Michigan. We have had our challenges there as well. We have improved how we’re handle that. I believe our new chief engineer is very different in his focus and his effort to get this delivered so I am confident that we will get it delivered. And I am confident actually that things are going pretty well because I was at a speaking engagement last week with Jim Redeker and he was cordial, so I think we are okay right this minute.”

Senator Blumenthal: “We will know it’s really working when he is more than just cordial. He actually gives you a slap on the back and congratulates you. But very seriously I hope that we can have your continuing oversight here in the time that you have remaining because it is so critical that this project remains on track. And I assume that you believe there’s every indication that it will move be moving forward on the budget and on the timetable that has been set.”

Mr. Boardman: “Yes”

Senator Blumenthal: “And that you will continue to have your voice heard in this project?”

Mr. Boardman: “Yes”

Video of the exchange can be seen here.