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Redeker pooh poohs Wall Street train station

Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) Commissioner James Redeker, Wednesday in Norwalk City Hall.

Updated, 1 p.m.: Headline corrected.

NORWALK, Conn. – There’s a plan afoot to electrify the Danbury branch railroad line from South Norwalk to Merritt 7, James Redeker said Wednesday.

Redeker, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, informed people attending the Transportation Forum in Norwalk City Hall that he has yet to unveil a 30-year transportation plan “with a 10-year horizon to advance major initiatives to improve rail service sooner rather than later,” which includes an electrified rail line here. 

This was in response to questions from Wall Street businessman Michael McGuire, who has been spearheading a push for a Wall Street train station. Redeker said he isn’t crazy about that plan, but that’s just his opinion.

McGuire dropped hints, as he has previously, about a plan for a Wall Street train station that wouldn’t cost the government any money.

“We got creative and guess what, it won’t cost you a dime,” McGuire said. “The private sector will build this station. We have a format and a plan. That’s why when it comes to you I hope you won’t say no. I hope you will at least say, ‘Let’s talk about it and listen.’”

Yes, maintenance of a train station is an issue, but, “We’ll put together a business improvement district to take care of that station because it’s significant for Norwalk’s growth, it’s a real turnaround,” McGuire said. “A bunch of us got together and created a really positive solution to helping out.”

A request has gone to The State Bond Commission to issue funding for a study of a Wall Street train station, money that was appropriated by the legislature last year, Redeker said.

If there’s a delay, it could kill the deal with the developer who’s willing to create the station, McGuire replied, explaining that he’s so certain a train station would be successful that, “I think you should do a study to find out if it doesn’t work.”

“I totally understand. I totally appreciate that stations are economic development and create places that people want to be at,” Redeker said. “The Wall Street station would be a branch line station with only a single train that is direct to New York, that would require people to transfer to the mainline, which I am not all that sure is all that attractive because there are other options to get to mainline stations with other service.”

The 30-year plan was created for the Connecticut Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth he said, and, “Some of that is to create direct service on the Danbury branch which would make the Wall Street station a direct mainline station, because we would electrify to Merritt 7.”

Redeker came to Norwalk to discuss the Wall Street train station and other topics with Mayor Harry Rilling.

Asked earlier how that went, Rilling mentioned the “significant pool of money” earmarked for the train station study, how it has to be moved out of the Bond Commission.

“If it is… it will determine whether the Wall Street train station is feasible at this particular time, whether it’s something that ConnDOT and Metro North are willing to do,” he said.

What else did they talk about?

“We talked about the Walk Bridge and how we will be communicating on a more regular basis,” Rilling said, explaining that there are now two additional ConnDOT employees involved in the process, as well as the Department of Community and Economic Development “so that we can try to mitigate the impact of the Walk Bridge project on our downtown businesses.”

13 comments

Rem March 30, 2018 at 8:32 am

When the private sector jumps up and says hey, we’ll fund it, the state should listen. After all, isn’t the state budget still projected to go negative in the future? You can’t fund everything from bonds…

I look forward to CTDOT’s plan for electrifying the track and the reasons for doing so.

Michael McGuire March 30, 2018 at 9:57 am

All things considered this is progress. We’ve gone from a long forgotten idea to nearly front burner on local issues.

At each step we encountered real resistance but after sharing the story and statistics about the benefits of reactivating the Wall Street Train Station the opponents are won over.

While Mr. Redeker reportedly Poo Pooed the train station, if you look at his reasoning I don’t think it he had fully researched the issues. For instance Mr. Redeker’s main reasons for his lukewarm stance toward a Wall Street Train Station was two fold – budgets and being a “Spur” line would not garner much ridership.

The Danbury Branch line has over 800,000 trips in 2017 or which 500,000 were to NYC and the remainder were inter-town commutes. That means roughly 1,000 people per day are using this line to get to NYC while a further 600 people are commuting within CT. All but one of the Danbury line stations are leafy suburban stations that you drive to.

However, the Wall Street area has over 740,000 SF of office space (equivalent to 3 Merritt Seven Office Buildings in Size), and over 3,000 residential housing units all within walking distance (.5 miles) to this reactivated station. In fact it is the largest urban area not served by train in the Southwestern Connecticut.

Would a reactivated Wall Street Train Station have the capacity to increase ridership by 10% to NYC, or 100 people per day?

Let’s see, with over 2,300 recently completed (in the past decade), or planned apartment units within walking distance (approximately .5 miles or less) to this station 100 additional commuters from the Wall Street area is only about 3% of the likely population of housed in these apartments. That means that 3 people out of 100 would be commuters to NYC. That seems low to me particularly given the targeted audience of these apartments.

How about we try a more reasonable 10% of the population of the new apartment buildings. That would be 345 per day (using 1.5 people per apartment unit). If we don’t have a station where do these people park their cars to get to the SoNo or E. Norwalk Stations which have 2 year waiting lists (and cost $80 per month in parking fees).

Lastly, if Mr. Redeker has a plan to “electrify” the tracks to Merritt 7 in the next 10 years, thus making many more through trains to NYC available, than his “spur” line argument fails. That leaves his last argument, budgets, a moot point.

Mr. Redeker was very pleasant and forthcoming. We’ll continue to work with him to overcome these new hurdles. Clearly he is a numbers guy and the numbers in this case strongly support a Wall Street Train Station.

Michael McGuire March 30, 2018 at 10:32 am

Minor correction on stats – within a half mile of a reactivated Wall Street Train Station there is 1,230,000 square feet of office space, not 740,000 as I originally noted.

By comparison the Merritt 7 office complex is 1,640,000 square feet in size.

So in effect the Wall Street area is approximately the equivalent to 5 of the 6 Merritt-7 Office buildings in size.

Piberman March 30, 2018 at 11:37 am

Do train stations foster economic development ? Is that why booming Stamford has an impressive train station. Or does the impressive train station reflect a booming Stamford. If Norwalk had an equally impressive train station would that generate development in our long depressed downtown. Westport has a modest train station. Yet Westport is doing quite nicely at least judging from its awesome housing prices. Claiming another modest downtown train station would boost Norwalk needs a strong argument.
Cart looks ahead of the horse here. When developers offer train stations we see profits ahead.

Donna Smirniotopoulos March 30, 2018 at 11:41 am

@Nancy, unless Mr. Redeker soiled his diaper, the title should read, “Redeker pooh-poohs Wall Street train station.”

Debora Goldstein March 30, 2018 at 12:43 pm

I believe the term is “pooh pooh”. The other spelling would likely get him arrested for indecent exposure.

Debora Goldstein March 30, 2018 at 12:47 pm

I sincerely hope the sum total of this forum’s conversation wasn’t about the Wall St train station, but focused also on the fact that there are multiple significant DOT transportation projects in Norwalk, many of them with impacts to East Norwalk.

jlightfield March 30, 2018 at 6:05 pm

As much as I would enjoy seeing a train station near Wall Street, the facts are that undercapitalized local developers will not be the lead investor in developing a P3 project. I think we’ve seen the outcome of such past efforts, the unfinished Wall Street Place, the undercapitalized Head of the Habor requiring city money to complete Smith Street and the East Wall Street retaining wall, the undercapitalized Wall Street Theater, the undercapitalized Highpoint project.

In reality, the City lost its opportunity to rethink the Danbury line with the capitulation on increasing the multi-track extension past Jennings Place. Imagine if 2 tracks went up to Wall Street, or even to Merrit 7. You could then build a service that could function as a light rail solution connecting the office parks to SONO, and with some creative partnerships add a platform at the Mall and Wall Street.

Instead, the ship sailed, the engineers drew up plans without a track addition and the Governor rescinded the upgrades to the station at Merrit 7.

Maybe after we elect a new administration in the fall, this issue will get revisited. But by then, the dockyard project will be underway and Norwalk will have yet another lost opportunity.

Rick March 30, 2018 at 10:00 pm

why not a train station at the mall right now?

lets ask

Attorney Eric Bernheim, Halloran & Sage

Special Counsel to the City of Norwalk on multiple initiatives including the development of the City’s largest-ever development project (SONO Collection), Waypointe Development and Walk Bridge Projects

imagine having an inside track on what could be around the mall local investors grabbing land now I bet

Was the question asked about a mall train station?

Simon says maybe , who is Simon?

They could own the mall just ask Eric Bernheim

bidding war to ensue, led by Simon Property Group for GGP

I think the city has been played again.

Michael McGuire March 31, 2018 at 9:52 am

@Nancy – Deb Goldstein brings up an important point – Why solely focus on the Train Station for this article when so much more was covered?

Big contingent of folks turn out to discuss bus issues.

Likewise the Walk Street Bridge discussion took up much more time and interest by those in the room.

Finally, why such a disparaging headline? I spoke directly with Mr. Redeker and had a great back and forth. He’s open to listening and learning about the area and it does dove tail nicely with electrifying the line to Merritt 7.

As I noted above – once you see the stats it creates a compelling argument.

Donna Smirniotopoulos March 31, 2018 at 1:48 pm

@Rem and @jlightfield, sometimes the private sector doesn’t jump in to invest until the public sector creates exciting, innovating ideas and and goes out into the world and pitches them. Local developers won’t take the lead on this. Our local leaders—the mayor and other elected officials—may need to get creative, possibly with the help of a city manager and city planner—and pitch ideas for private/public partnerships. Creating connections between Wall Street and Washington Street via light rail (think monorail) or trolley; better sidewalks, perhaps even elevated ones; AND a Wall Street Station could be part of a shared vision for Norwalk’s future. However, none of this is likely to happen in the absence of a ruling citywide plan and a government structure designed to uphold it from the highest elected office to every appointed land use seat, to every common councilperson who approves those seats.

@Mark, the Harbor Keeper group is holding a meeting in late April to discuss the Walk Bridge, which Larissa Brown of Stantec recently referred to as a “done deal”. Harbor Keeper Group, filed suit in Federal Court against ConnDOT for failure to fulfill their environmental due diligence. Somehow in the midst of economic catastrophe, there’s one billion dollars for this project. Compensation to Norwalk for economic disruption, aside for some giveaways to the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion and the Maritime Aquarium, are minimal.

@Rick, I’m glad you mentioned Eric Bernheim. His name keeps popping up. In addition to the projects you mentioned, Bernheim has also appeared in Federa Court in Hartford in connection to the Firetree case.

Rick March 31, 2018 at 2:58 pm

Michael maybe you could specific yourself how much of the sq feet you speak of is empty? and has been for how long?

How much office space will be turned into residential , The Danbury Matrix is a good example of empty space that may be heading for residential Floor area: 2,100,000 square feet

How much more empty space is going to be available once the mall empties the city?

I have a hard time with stats that are given by the city as it is , your Wall st station seems like a great idea but the stats seem to have a political strain to them.

How do we compare in empty sq feet with other cities?

You want to sell the train station lets see some facts break it down for all of us , maybe Stantec has numbers we have not seen yet heading to Brookfield.

Mr. Redeker was dropped into a hornets nest , like he would argue with anyone at this point.

learning about the area, a quick drive around the city and reading what jlightfield wrote and knowing whats going on in Hartford Im not seeing a compelling argument.

In fact what was the answer when the mall train platform was brought up? If they ask for one will the answer be no? A direct link to the casino will be bad for Bridgeport?

483 Connecticut Warehouses listings for lease or rent displayed of over nearly 800,000 total Commercial Real Estate Properties for Sale and for Lease on LoopNet.com. any in Norwalk?

Lets see some real numbers , convince me the city will die without the wall st station .

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