Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Metro-North Danbury Branch electrification eyed

Written by  Mischa Wanek-Libman, engineering editor
Connecticut State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton) and State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) are urging fellow lawmakers to make the Danbury branch of Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Metro-North Railroad a priority.

The bill introduced by the two lawmakers would allow the State Bond Commission to issue bonds to fund the project.

Citing that the Danbury Branch, which opened in 1852, uses diesel-powered trains that push train cars to New York City and pull train cars to Danbury, Boucher and Lavielle said they are supporting a bill that improves performance, increases the number of trains and electrifies the branch

Rep. Lavielle said, "Metro-North is the artery for the state's most important zone of economic activity and the Danbury branch line links two of its most important urban centers, Norwalk and Danbury, and all the towns in between. Yet it is the most antiquated rail line in the country.

"Despite that, it is still one of the busiest, providing hundreds of thousands of passenger rides a year. If it were in better condition and ran more frequent service, it would be even busier, reducing congestion on the roads, freeing up parking on the main line and fostering economic development," said Rep. Lavielle. "There is nothing speculative about the Danbury Branch Line. Our reasoning must not be, 'Build it and they will come.' Instead, it must be, 'Get on with it already, because they are already here – and if you don't, they just might not stay.' My urgent message, on behalf of my constituents and the hardworking commuters of Fairfield County, is that fixing and upgrading the highly used New Haven Line and its branches must take priority over new investments that are designed to bear fruit over time."

For a decade, lawmakers, including Senator Boucher, ranking member on the Transportation Committee, supported efforts to modernize the line. In 2010, the federal government invested in the Norwalk/Danbury Branch Line after a long battle to avert a shut- down of the line.

"Our continuing challenge is to completely modernize this branch line to meet not only today's needs, but also future needs. For far too long, commuters who should have been using this line felt compelled to use the New Canaan, South Norwalk and Westport stations because of faulty, out dated equipment. This necessary upgrade will go far in alleviating stress on many other congested train stations throughout Fairfield County," said Sen. Boucher.