June 13, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday June 13, 2018

Despite New Commuter Line, Rail Upgrades Lag North Of Hartford

While the new Hartford Line will roll through several modern train stations when it begins service Saturday, passengers will have a less pristine view at stops north of the capital city.
The train stations in both Windsor and Windsor Locks are undergoing construction and are years away from the major overhauls seen in Berlin, Meriden and Wallingford. The two stations will also lack ticket kiosks for at least a month after the New Haven-to-Springfield commuter line opens this weekend, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Passengers at those locations will be able to buy their fare on board CTrail trains at no additional cost, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said. At stations equipped with ticket vending machines — those in Springfield, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford and New Haven — there is a $3 surcharge per ticket bought on board.
Tickets cannot be purchased on board Amtrak-branded trains.Everhart said both Windsor and Windsor Locks will receive ticket kiosks by mid-July or so.
At the Windsor station, minor construction work should wrap up within the next few weeks. Amtrak is upgrading the brickwork in front of the historic, single-track railroad depot, which was built in 1870 and rebuilt in 1988.
The upgrades will improve restroom access for individuals with disabilities.
In Windsor Locks, the town is carrying out restoration work to create a welcome center at its historic station, which was built in 1875. The list spans repairing and reshingling the roof, replacing ornamental and structural woodwork, repairing brickwork and gutting the interior, which has been neglected for decades. Part of the structure’s west wall was burned by vandals.
The town is seeking grants and private donations to finish the restoration.
Ultimately, DOT plans to build new transit centers near both of the historic railroad depots.
In Windsor Locks, construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2020 to build a new, $65 million platform immediately north of the current Main Street station. There is no timeline for the construction of the new Windsor platform, which will be built slightly south of the current Central Street station.
Both modern stations will feature high-level platforms with a pedestrian overpass linking both sides of the track, like at the new stations in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin.
The DOT is also working to complete the laying of double-track north of Hartford.
There is a recently installed section that runs from Hartford to the Windsor train station, and another existing stretch that runs from just north of Windsor to just south of Windsor Locks, according to DOT assistant rail administrator John Bernick.
In September, engineers will connect those two pieces, he said.
The DOT must still lay track from just south of Windsor Locks to Enfield, where double tracking picks up and continues through Springfield.
The September connection will make the Hartford Line more reliable, adding room for trains to pass in the event that one falls behind schedule, Bernick said. However, the commuter line will not be able to add extra trains between Hartford and Springfield until there is double tracking along the full route.
When the new commuter line opens Saturday, most CTrail trains will only run between Hartford and New Haven.
Only six CTrail trains will service Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield on weekdays, and only four will run through those locations on weekends.
There is no funding to finish the double tracking, to build the new station in Windsor or to repair a key rail bridge over the Connecticut River.
Those construction projects total about $328 million, according to state records.

Eversource to update Access Northeast proposal with PUC

MANCHESTER — Eversource on Monday notified the state Public Utilities Commission that it will submit an updated proposal to replace the company’s agreement to purchase capacity on the proposed Access Northeast gas pipeline expansion.
This comes after the state Supreme Court recently reversed the PUC’s 2016 dismissal of the original agreement and had sent the issue to the PUC.
Access Northeast is a $3 billion joint venture proposed by Eversource, Spectra Energy and National Grid to be funded by electricity ratepayers.
Eversource, meanwhile, said it also asked the PUC to throw out its 2017 dismissal of a power purchase agreement between the company and Hydro-Québec that would have provided New Hampshire customers with a portion of the clean energy slated to be carried by the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project.
The state Site Evaluation Committee rejected Northern Pass’s application this year. Eversource said it might pursue the SEC rejection in court.
The PUC’s dismissal of that agreement was based on the Access Northeast order that the Supreme Court has reversed, according to Eversource. That dismissal prevented the significant benefits of that agreement from being considered by Site Evaluation Committee during deliberations on Northern Pass’ siting application, according to Eversource.
“New Hampshire’s highest court has clearly determined that reducing energy costs to customers was the Legislature’s primary intent in restructuring the state’s electric utility system,” said Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan. “The PUC’s decisions were out of step with that intent.”