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.”