Train Station Grand Opening: Getting Closer

Sally E. Bahner PhotoDepartment of Transportation officials are counting down the weeks to the completion of the Branford Train Station redo, a project that has been in the works since May 2013 and when finished will provide two-way train travel.

As of December 2015, much of the work hinged on installation of the elevators, which enable access to the north side of the tracks. According to DOT Chief Inspector Mark Fullerton, they have now been installed, but have not yet passed inspection. “State elevator inspectors will perform that,” Fullerton said. “Hopefully within a week or so.”

The elevators were manufactured in Europe and there had been a delay in the delivery of parts.

Two other issues are affecting completion.

The old and new Train Approach Messaging Systems (TAMS) are not compatible. A new system has been ordered and is expected to be installed by mid to end of June. DOT Transportation Engineer Paul Andruskiewicz explained that the verbal and visual system is an Amtrak requirement. The system will be installed in Guilford as well as Branford.

In addition, a fence needs to be installed on top of the retaining wall on the north side of the station to meet code.

Andruskiewicz said a punch list is now being reviewed, which includes touch-up paint, bolt tightening, repairs, and plantings. Only a couple of workers are on site now, he said, and paperwork, which he described as “tedious” is being finished up.

Sally E. Bahner PhotoPlantings are already in place along the new “Kiss and Go” driveway that’s just north of the overpass on Kirkham Street. Overflow parking is available on Meadow Street (the site of the original train station) and a stairway leads to Kirkham.

Even with the delays the cost is expected to be around $10 million, up from the original $9 million. “There may be some changes,” said Andruskiewicz. “The numbers have to be quantified.”

Looking Back

Now that it’s completed, the new station will hearken back to some of the elegance of the Branford Railroad Station from this 1931 postcard. This view shows MIF in the background.

Branford’s railroad stations were traditionally located along the east side of the overpass, along Meadow Street. With the construction of the Interstate and the reliance on automobile travel, the stations devolved.

The undated photo shows a boxy building with an overhang.

And by 1966, the “depot” was little more than a shed.

The current railroad station opened in 2005 on the west side of the overpass and has undergone several expansions, particularly the parking area, a big draw because it is free; the lot accommodates 500 vehicles.

Known as Shore Line East, the line has expanded, both in terms of the schedule and the facility.

Sally E. Bahner PhotoThe most recent expansion will enable two-way access to the station.

The roof of the original station is being used as a bicycle shelter. Here’s the station in 2008.

Sally E. Bahner PhotoAnd as the station nears completion with the bicycle shelter in place. Andruskiewicz said he expects a grand opening celebration with the governor, legislators, and town officials in about three weeks. By then, everything should be spit and polished – and all the chain link fencing should be gone.

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posted by: MJS on May 25, 2016  10:11am

Nice history and great photos of the past.  Thanks!

posted by: anonymous on May 26, 2016  10:53am

The way the station and surrounding area is designed flies in the face of how rail stations throughout the rest of the world are designed as economic and community assets.  In particular, it is a travesty that the parking and driveway infrastructure are so poorly designed and overbuilt. 

The design here forever guarantees that the station and its surrounding area will never become a community hub, in the way that many older train stations are. 

Does anyone care about the town and state economy, or is moving the wealthy commuters from Pine Orchard as quickly as possible into New Haven the only goal here? Where was the oversight from DECD?

posted by: branfordvoter on May 26, 2016  2:15pm

Why is this small project not finished after more than three years?
Why is there apparently a significant cost overrun?
Who will conduct a hearing to answer these questions?