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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Could it be that my dream is about to come true

No not Karl Rove being taken away in handcuffs, my other dream.

Okay, let me explain...

If you don't know already, I live in Danbury and we have a transportation system. The highways are always clogged with traffic and the rail service is nothing more than a nightmare.

I'll skip the traffic nightmare and talk about the rail dilemma...

The Danbury rail service is part of the Metro-North railroad system and is connected to the silly New Haven Line. I call it silly because in order to get to New York City on rail, you have to travel from Danbury to South Norwalk, get off one train, wait fifteen minutes to pick up a connecting train that eventually takes you to Grand Central Station. Look at the map below and you'll see what I mean.
Click on image to enlarge

In the end, it takes anywhere from two to two and a half hours to get from Danbury to the city (and that's if you don't miss the train in South Norwalk).

Most people who work in the city and live in Danbury drive over to Brewster-Southeast NY and pick up the train that is connected to the Harlem Line. This train travels through Westchester County and brings you to Grand Central in about one and a half hours. It might not seem like much but it makes a huge difference when you travel everyday and you can skip the hassles associated with the New Haven line (overcrowding, connecting trains, dirty trains, etc.) The only problem with picking up the train in Brewster is the outrageous parking fees you have to pay in order to keep your car near the station. When you add the cost of the train fare with the parking fees, traveling to New York becomes quite expensive.

For as long as I can remember, people in the area have complained that Danbury should be linked up to the Harlem Line in Brewster instead of connecting to South Norwalk (again, if you look at the map, it's clear that Danbury is much closer to Brewster than South Norwalk). There is already a track that goes from Danbury to Brewster that currently not in use so connecting the two locations wouldn't be that hard.

Well, it looks like the state is finally attempting to address the situation.
Commuters from New Milford will be able to take the train straight to New York City within the next 10 years, under a massive state transportation improvement bill approved Wednesday by the House.

Officials say if things go well, construction likely would begin at least five years from now.

"It will be statutory. It wouldn't be an option," said Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, the ranking Republican on the legislature's Transportation Committee, stressing the project will be completed. "There is a renewed realization that we need more promotion of public transportation for the overall economy of the state."

The bill, which passed by a vote of 143-4, would also streamline rail travel for commuters from all of the Danbury area traveling to the Big Apple, by building and electrifying new tracks.

Then, passengers boarding the Danbury line will go straight to Grand Central Station. Now they have to change trains at the South Norwalk Metro-North station, so the Danbury line serves as a shuttle.

The 10-year, $2.3-billion transportation package, proposed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and agreed to by legislative Democrats, also includes money to widen parts of Interstate 84 between Danbury and Waterbury; an extended rail line from New Haven to Springfield, Mass., with stops in Hartford and at Bradley International Airport; and money to upgrade ports in Bridgeport, New London and New Haven.


Before construction, the proposal has to go through four phases.

Phase One — determining the cost and necessity of the train line — took three years and is completed, Trotta said.

Phase 2 will be the environmental-impact study and overview of details, such as what equipment will be needed to carryout construction. If few environmental issues exist, this phase could be completed in a year, but it could drag on for multiple years if problems are discovered.

Phase 3 will be planning and engineering, which should take about a year.

Phase 4, the final phase, is construction.


"The days of simply widening roads and highways are over," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn. "We must have a greater commitment to mass transit, rail freight and use our deep water ports. That's the only way we reduce congestion."

Sen. Andrew Roraback, a Goshen Republican whose district includes New Milford and Brookfield, looks forward to passing the initiative in the Senate.

"It's certainly a real credit to New Milford," Roraback said. "It's a nice investment that will have benefits to northern Fairfield County and southern Litchfield County."
While it's unknown whether or not they'll actually link up Danbury to Brewster, the ability to travel from Danbury to New York directly might actually become a reality and would help with the traffic congestion on I-84 and I-684.