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December 22, 2017 FIVE TO WATCH IN 2018

Redeker to lead state's launch of new Hartford Rail Line

James P. Redeker is the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation.

Each year HBJ highlights five business, government, nonprofit or higher-education leaders to watch in coming year because of their likelihood to be in the spotlight. Here’s a look at our 2018 choices.

Developers are jumping onboard a new rail line expanding service between New Haven and Springfield in May, which is an early measure of success for the new CTrail Hartford Line, according to Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker.

Transit-oriented development along the line that's occurred in places like Meriden is positive, said Redeker, point man for a department with a lot riding on the roughly $769 million rail project expected to begin rolling new trains between Mother's Day and Memorial Day.

“For me, that is the No. 1 goal of transportation — it's the economy — and if it's happening before we even open, I'll check that box already,” Redeker said when asked what he'll consider successful first-year measures for the Hartford Line.

He expects more economic development will follow as people discover the high-speed train service and developers respond with housing and other projects near stations. Transit-oriented development is already occurring or planned in Wallingford, Windsor and Windsor Locks.

“This stuff, it really takes time and it takes a few successes and then the word gets out and I think it will be transformative at that point,” Redeker said.

He'll also consider the line successful if it gets about 585,000 riders in 2018.

“Ultimately, I think we'll get to a number above 800,000, like 834,000,” within five years, Redeker said. “Our target has always been, if you ever got to the 25 trains a day, over 1 million.”

Another success will be completing the Hartford Line on time and under budget, both of which he expects to occur. The $769 million project (about $675 million of that for work leading up to May's launch) includes $201 million in federal funding.

The service will launch with 17 daily roundtrips between New Haven and Hartford and 12 between Springfield and Hartford, with stops at New Haven Union Station, New Haven State Street Station, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford Union Station, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield Union Station.

That compares to six traveling the route today on Amtrak, whose trains will complement those leased by the Department of Transportation and operated by a third-party joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts.

Getting to 25 daily roundtrips between New Haven and Springfield requires track improvements between Hartford and Springfield, funding for which will have to be approved later.

Future funding also is needed for four new stations in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield. Getting the project to that point will require about another $400 million, timing and funding for which are uncertain.

In early December, Redeker and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned of a major transportation funding crunch that could cause the state to delay billions of dollars in infrastructure projects in the coming years.

The Hartford Line connects in New Haven to Shoreline East trains and to New Haven Line trains into New York, and also is linked to CTfastrak and other services, creating a network of various transit feeds north-south, east-west. Express bus service every 30 to 60 minutes also is planned between Bradley International Airport and Hartford, hopefully starting in May, Redeker said.

Bigger picture, the Hartford Line is instrumental to New England states' larger shared vision for proposed and improved rail travel throughout the region, including to Montreal and to and from Boston via Springfield.

Mike Goman, principal with Goman + York Property Advisors LLC in East Hartford, said the Hartford Line presents development opportunities. Goman praised Redeker's forward-thinking and public accessibility on key issues, including discussing the rail line with developers.

“From a commercial real estate industry standpoint, I think everybody is anticipating a boost of economic development on sites along the rail line,” Goman said. “There's no question that development follows transit corridors.”

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