A group of 18 shoreline state legislators and top town officials, determined to preserve weekend and off-peak Shore line East commuter rail service, gathered as one this morning to condemn the cuts and to declare they would fight to restore them.
State Rep. Sean Scanlon (pictured above), (D-Guilford and Branford) organized the group and the press conference at the Guilford Railroad station. In the frigid cold the shoreline’s elected officials decried proposed cuts that as of July 1 would leave the shoreline without train service on weekends and off-peak hours.
Scanlon said that almost every town on the shoreline route “is currently working on economic development surrounding transit oriented development. To scale back service now is a huge mistake.” He said his colleagues from both sides of the aisle will strongly urge the commissioner to rethink these cuts.” Click here to read a story about housing development near the Branford train station.
The cuts proposed by DOT will weaken the shoreline’s transportation infrastructure and damage our state and local economy,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingly, Madison, North Branford).
Standing at the Guilford train station, Kennedy (pictured) said, “Nearly 2,000 people commute on Shore Line East during the weekend and off-peak hours. These cuts will harm residents of the shoreline commuting to their jobs or visitors coming to our communities to work or patronize our businesses. This does not solve a problem; it creates a new problem and moves our state in the wrong direction. I urge DOT to reconsider these proposed cuts.”
The state Department of Transportation’s decision to cut weekend rail service would likely have a major impact on Branford’s proposed housing development, called Atlantic Wharf, which will abut the railroad. And the Stony Creek Brewery, for example, attracts hundreds of patrons to its doors on weekends, many of whom arrive by rail. The brewery is in view of the railroad station.
By coincidence or not, an hour after the press conference Governor Dannel P. Malloy released an outline of his administration’s revenue package to stabilize the Special Transportation Fund, a package that would prevent major service reductions on Metro-North, Shore Line East, and CTtransit bus services and would also prevent drastic increases in rail and bus fares.
Branford is currently engaged in creating a Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which in large measure, is tied to Transit Oriented Development (TOD,), specifically the train station. The TOD study looked at development opportunities in a half-mile radius of the Shoreline East Train Station, including the area along the Branford River.
One of the key suggestions was a transit loop to link the train station to other locations.The next POCD meeting is schedule for Feb. 7 at Canoe Brook Senior Center at 4:30 p.m. Click ”>here for an earlier story.
A $60M Shortfall
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) recently announced that they would eliminate all weekend and off-peak train service effective July 1. The DOT announced the cuts, saying “these actions are necessary due to an estimated $60 million budget shortfall for transit and rail accounts.”
Besides Shore Line East, the CTDOT this week also announced significant reductions for the New Canaan, Danbury, and Waterbury branch lines on the New Haven Line. The main line New Haven Line service would largely remain unchanged.
State Rep. Lonnie Reed was in Hartford and could not attend today’s press conference. And First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove, who was scheduled to speak, had a commitment to a prior meeting. But other first selectmen from the towns of Guilford, Madison, Westbrook, and Old Saybrook were on hand to give their views.
In a statement, Rep. Reed said, “A vibrant Shore Line East, complete with weekend service, is crucial to our economic growth and development. In addition to serving our workforce, including health care workers who frequently have weekend schedules, Shore Line East is essential to competing for the high tech, biotech, and manufacturing professionals being sought after by shoreline businesses. They demand the kind of mass transit service that can get them where they want to go when they want to go there. Let’s stop killing the things that work.”
“People depend on reliable transportation options and these cuts hinder that. We need a much more innovative way to manage our economic crisis – and this isn’t it,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora (R- Durham, Guilford, North Branford and Wallingford).
Rep. Noreen Kokoruda (pictured), R-Madison) said this morning that the proposal to undue weekend railroad service was wrong. “The proposed cuts are going in the wrong direction.” She said for the last 30 years Shore Line East “has played a significant role in reducing congestion our highways, with almost 2,000 people a week using it.” Residents were asked to try rail service and they did, she said.
The first public hearing on the elimination of shoreline railroad service will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the New Haven Hall of Records, 200 Orange St., Room G-2 from 5 to 8 p.m. No public hearings are scheduled in the Branford area, according to DOT information released yesterday.