February 6, 2009

Commuter rail in Bristol is picking up steam


The idea isn’t quite barreling down the tracks yet, but there’s a growing push to create a new commuter rail service between Waterbury and Hartford.

State lawmakers and the Department of Transportation are increasingly supportive of taking a hard look at the option, a change hailed by Bristol Mayor Art Ward.

The service would use an existing freight line railroad track that runs through Bristol and New Britain on its way to Berlin, where it can hook up with the Amtrak line that runs along the Connecticut River.

Light rail is “critical to the movement of people,” said Mike Nicastro, the president of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce. Having it is a crucial element in restoring the city center, he said.

“It runs right through the center of our town,” said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat whose 79th District covers the southern third of the city.

“We need to see what we can do about getting our rail line open from Bristol into Hartford,” Nicastro said.

Nicastro said that “it would not be that costly” to begin passenger service on the existing rail line.

This is “a good time” to pursue the idea, said state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat whose 22nd District includes portions of both Bristol and New Britain.

“To me, it’s something that would definitely help,” Boukus said.

Boukus said she can envision a time when Pan Am passenger trains might be able to take people from Bristol all the way to Maine, at the other end of the regional system.

Mike Nicastro pointed out that from Waterbury, train riders could connect to the Metro North system that runs trains into New York City.

The Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency last night renewed its support for the proposed commuter line.

It has three transportation initiatives that it’s pushing: the rail line, another rail plan to have trains between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., and the busway between New Britain and Hartford.

Ken Sooshan-Staller, a regional planner, said the current estimate pegs the cost of upgrading the tracks, including bridges and the construction of new depots, at $52 million.

Those pushing the idea say that perhaps old Metro North trains could be used without piling up much additional expense.

Sooshan-Staller said the last major study of the rail line’s possible use came 17 years ago. Another study is the next necessary step, he said.

“It’s very favorable that they’re talking about funding the feasibility study,” Ward said.

Officials said that some changes in the line would be needed to prevent traffic tie-ups at busy intersections such as Bristol’s Maple End or a handful of junctions in New Britain.

There are currently four freight trains a day running between Plainville and Berlin and one between Bristol and Waterbury.

The average speed on the single track is about 20 miles an hour, with some sections requiring slower speeds but some sections allow faster travel.

Ward said that with only one track, scheduling is going to be crucial. But, he said, if the service is a hit, perhaps another track could be added so trains could travel more easily in both directions.

Mike Nicastro said that rail travel is perfect for a greener America with many young immigrants who come from countries where trains are relied on much more than they have been in recent decades in the United States.

 “Let’s start using mass transit. It’s a necessity,” Nicastro said.

Boukus agreed it’s the only way to go.
“I’m very into mass transit,” Boukus said.

Berlin to Waterbury rail line

24.5 miles

Single track

Average speed is 20 miles per hour

Owned by Mass.-based Pan Am Railways


*******
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's pursue this! Light rail is the way to go, but even a slow start with old Metro-North trains would at least get the ball rolling.

Anonymous said...

Now we are stuck with two Nicastros, and each thinks he is mayor and/or wants to be mayor.

Wouldn't that be an interesting primary!

NBpoliticus said...

It's good news to see the rail idea gain momentum for both environmental and economic reasons on a regional scale. That, however, shouldn't preclude moving forward on the New Britain-Hartford busway. The busway has been planned to death because of the DOT's highway only mentality and NIMBYism. It's still the most viable alternative to get the working commuters in and out of Hartford without I-84 congestion and pollution.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

50 million bucks to fix up some tracks and stations so we can spend another 10 million or so a year subsidizing a mode of transportation no one really wants to use regularly.

Anonymous said...

Transit oriented development is the key to downtown! Let's get crazy and envision a transportation center with condo's surrounding it for all of those ESPN workers. They can take the train to NYC easily. Oh and some of the shops that would be supporting all of the people downtown. Let's create the vision!!

Anonymous said...

February 6, 2009 9:56 PM

Be careful what you wish for.

If Mike Nicastro wanted to run for Mayor of Bristol would be in very good hands.

Anonymous said...

CT is a small state and a developed state.
All of it's major cities should be connected to each other by a web of commuter rails. As a developed country we need to embrace alternate transportation forms, and reduce our single-minded dependency on the auto and highways.

I'm doubtful that new electric cars (GM's Volt)costing $40,000+, or the hydrogen car at $100,000, ..... is a viable transportation option that most workers can afford or will be able to afford in future.

It is unfortunate that car ownership is an absolute necessity in order to secure the basic essentials of daily life, or a necessity for basic citizenship.

Time we modified our behavior to fit the new reality --- limited resources and a planet choking and gasping on our own waste products.

Anonymous said...

And how much does it cost to maintain and subsidize the highways and roads of CT?
That's not free.
How much is the RT 72 extension costing?

I don't think anyone likes "using the highways" when stuck in commuter traffic jams, or crawling along at a snails pace because of an accident.
I don't think anyone likes "using the highways" when the road-ragers drunks,druggies, speed-demons, and bimbo's are zooming all over the place.

Concerned Conservative said...

I think a commuter rail line will be a great idea in say 2050, but until then, 20 MPH isn't going to "cut it".

It'a amusing to see dunder-heads like the aforementioned pols (Betty-Bou in particular) piling on this idea. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

10:30

Based on the current mayor, you are 100% correct!

Poboy said...

"I think a commuter rail line will be a great idea in say 2050, but until then, 20 MPH isn't going to "cut it".

The tracks would be completely upgraded and replaced to allow faster speeds. 20 mph is the current safe limit due to the poor condition of the tracks. Not agreeing with the proposal, just clarifying a misunderstanding.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

Anonymous 2/7/09 11:11 said...
>>Time we modified our behavior to fit the new reality --- limited resources and a planet choking and gasping on our own waste products.

Go ahead and move to the UK or Europe, where you can pay 50% of your lower-income-than-here in taxes and have a great time.

The bus from Falkirk to Edinburgh is close to an hour (and good luck catching the return) by car the trip takes a little over 15 minutes.

Population Density
Mass transit simply can not function without a large user-base.

We don't have one.

London, England 12,000 per-sq mile
Hartford, CT 7,000 per-sq mile
Hartford County 1,100 per-sq mile
Bristol, CT 2,300 per-sq mile

Besides, cars are not the problem, (below 18% globally of all pollution, home heating far exceeds that) nor are Americans inclined to wipe out their entire economy by moving towards mass transit.

We may all wind up driving Smart Cars or something along those lines; but we will not be dictated to by bureaucrats telling us when to come and go, where we can go; what coffee shops will be nearby and which won't.

Mass transit is a control scheme and has absolutely nothing to do with the environment.

The next ill informed and understandably anonymous poster.....
Anonymous 2/7/09 11:20 said...
>>And how much does it cost to maintain and subsidize the highways and roads of CT?


Subsidized?

Fuel taxes should be 100% for road use; however they're not and go into the General Fund.
Less money is spent on our roads annually than the fuel taxes collected.

Thus, drivers are already subsidizing the rest of the state.

I can see why you post anonymously.

Poboy said...

"I can see why you post anonymously."

Is "Republican" your maiden or married name?

Anonymous said...

Another feel good political idea that is doomed to failure, at our expense.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

"We may all wind up driving Smart Cars or something along those lines; but we will not be dictated to by bureaucrats telling us when to come and go, where we can go; what coffee shops will be nearby and which won't."


Grow up!

At the end of the day mass transit in a state like Connecticut is only going to benefit the quality of life and our local economy.

It is crazy that a state with large population centers (and situated between two even larger centers like Boston and New York) should be devoid of a comprehensive mass transit system.



"Go ahead and move to the UK or Europe, where you can pay 50% of your lower-income-than-here in taxes and have a great time."

I can't say I'm surprised to hear this from a Republican. Doesn't matter how small or large the government is, when the core of your philosophy is that government should do as little as possible government will inevitably only benefit those who need it the least.

Mass transit as a control scheme? Well I guess it's more conspicuous than suspending habeus corpus and shipping people to Guantanamo.

Concerned Conservative said...

"The tracks would be completely upgraded and replaced to allow faster speeds."

--I'm sorry but where exactly in this article does it say Track "upgrading" will "allow faster speeds"? Although I guess one could assume it would, but again that's just an assumption.


"20 mph is the current safe limit due to the poor condition of the tracks"

---Say's who? Actually the tracks are in fine condition. I happen to know the former (circa two years ago) manager of this stretch of railroad track. The speed is mandated by the Feds due to populaton density and the fact the heavy freight cars use the rails. But it's mainly because of the track location relative to the city of Bristol and the region's population. The tracks are in fine shape.

-I guess "Po Boy" hasn't ever had enough for a proper education?

Anonymous said...

You may think this is a bad idea now, but wait til gas goes back up to $5 a gallon and you may feel differently! If we start the ball rolling on these sorta projects now, we MAY just get them in place before gas spikes again....and believe me it will...they are cutting production as we speak, just to help inflate prices. Haven't you noticed it already went up .50 cents in the past 2 months?? HELLO. People are going to be in shock when it goes up again and then our economy is really screwed. Being prepared for the worst has never hurt anyway, has it?

Anonymous said...

The state cannot even maintain the highways now.

How do you think that they will be able to maintain the railroad?

It is time to get back to basics and start running the government properly!

Anonymous said...

Great work Frank. You should run for mayor and get rid of the bum we have now!

Poboy said...

Did you ever walk those tracks? Ever take a good look at the poor condition of overpasses and unprotected intersections? How about the crummy retaining walls along North Main Street? Ever drive across the tracks in the center of Forestville? Do you think a manager that you say you know is going to tell you the truth about the condition of the tracks when telling you the truth might cost his company money or cost him his job? You tell me I assume they will upgrade to allow higher speeds, you assume they won't. I didn't say I supported this idea, there is no need to attack personally and be so shrill just because someone has a different point of view.

Anonymous said...

Good job by Mayor Ward for looking into all the options!

Anonymous said...

Keep looking Art: sooner or later you will have to do something like make a decision.
Art, you are all style and NO substance.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mr. Ward, keep looking for ways to Bristol moving forward!

Yeah, right... said...

ward was the one who proposed this a year ago when he organized a rail ride between Berlin and Waterbury which resulted in finally getting the forestville railroad crossing addressed, which will cost the railroad over $900,000.
guess frank forgot about that?

Anonymous said...

Ward is an Empty Suit!

Anonymous said...

I'd buy both of them a one way ticket out of town!