February 19, 2009

Two commuter rail stations eyed for Bristol

The commuter rail plan under consideration in Hartford includes two new stations in Bristol.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, said he has high hopes that lawmakers will back the $52 million plan to create a commuter rail service between Waterbury and Hartford that would run through Bristol and New Britain.
Mayor Art Ward said that restoring the service, which has been gone for decades, would help relieve congestion while adding new transportation options for residents.
A few legislators took a ride along the single track this week, including Nicastro and state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat whose 22nd District encompasses portions of Bristol and New Britain.
Nicastro said that he heard from other lawmakers who were so excited about the possibility of taking the trip, too, that it’s possible a passenger car might be brought in sometime to allow a larger number to see the 24.5-mile route.
“We have a chance to bring mass transit back,” Nicastro said.
The Massachusetts-based Pan Am Railways has estimated it would cost $52 million to upgrade the track and add stations so that it could be used for passengers to move between Waterbury and Hartford.
It would be possible, officials said, for commuters to catch Metro North trains in Waterbury that would take them to New York City and beyond.
In Berlin and Hartford, commuters would have the ability to catch Amtrak trains as well.
Nicastro said that the three-hour delay on Interstate 84 the other day – when a suicidal gunman blocked traffic – showed how important it is to have other alternatives for people to get around.
He said that it shouldn’t be so easy for one person to make movement so difficult in the region.
Nicastro said that it doesn’t make sense for the state to pay more than $500 million to create a busway between New Britain and Hartford but refuse to pony up a fraction of that to restore commuter rail along an existing line of track.
He said it might be possible to use the spur between Torrington and Waterbury as well.
For now, the line isn’t used much.
There are four freight trains a day between Plainville and Berlin and one that runs between Bristol and Waterbury.
Bristol’s development officials have long urged the creation of a downtown passenger rail station, perhaps also serving as a central bus station, too. They said that a transportation center would help bring people back to the city center.
One station is tentatively slated for downtown. The other would be in Forestville.
A detailed study of the commuter rail proposal is the next step, officials have said. That may happen during this legislative session, particularly if officials are convinced that the idea has merit and could be done relatively quickly.
Nicastro and Ward said they would like to see trains carrying people through town again within a few years.

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


Anonymous said...

Rell worked a day without pay. Where's the money going to come from for this??

Anonymous said...

good story, steve. that's the kind of movement we need to help start us on the path away from car centric transit.

Anonymous said...

A train service from New Britain to Hartford would benefit New Britain and should be pursued by the town leadership. New Britain has many empty office spaces and in some cases entire buildings. The former Burritt bank on the corner of Bank ST and Main comes to mind. With the proposed bus route and the trains New Britain would be posed to be the most accessible city in the state. Fill those office spaces, and the rest of the plan will fall in place. Restaurants, specialty stores, pubs. Many of the pieces are already in place. Trinity on Main is a bright shining star. The people who saw a diamond in the rough need to be commended and held out as a example that with a little planning and some fore sight things can happen in town. I can see a formal restaurant next to city hall. People making million dollar decisions on Bank ST. nationally known artist having a beer after a performance at trinity. Corporate giants landing at Robertson airport and being whisked to a board meeting at the new headquarters on Slater rd. Running into some old buddies who are catching a CCSU vs. UCONN game at the new Dennis Beatty sports complex. Or maybe I’ll just go down to one of the famed political clubs on Broad ST. You know you can't beat a locally produced Martin Rosol kielbasa sandwich from the Starapolska Rest. Hey if you don't like Polish food grab a half chicken some rice and a few plantains from Willies. Hey as long as I am with the guys talking about how the nieghberhood has really come to life now that families are moving in to be closer to their new offices in the old Stanly Works factories. It’s amazing the transformation...................This old conservative can dream, no?

Anonymous said...

Who is going to take this train? It will take over 1 hour to get from Bristol to Hartford. This rail is SLOW, made worse with the inevitable stopovers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Who is going to take this train? It will take over 1 hour to get from Bristol to Hartford. This rail is SLOW, made worse with the inevitable stopovers.

Have you ever tried to get to Hartford from Bristol on Mass Transit? It takes several hours. and still I see people doing it as I travel to my office in Hartford every morning and evening from and to New Britain. Also the rail line would be improved. And I think that 30 to 40 minutes is probaly more accurate time table. This would provide a means to improve foot traffic in downtown Britol. The New Britain to Bristol service would nice. Keep in mind that I am conservative and hate big goverment projects. However there is no doubt we need to improve our aging infrastructure. I think this rail service is good start. If fuel gets back to near 5 bucks it would be a god send.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. It's just what we need to build a stronger future for American cities.

Anonymous said...

As a bus commuter to Hartford for 22 years and a former transportation planner for the State of Mass, I have reservations about the project. Rail is extremely expensive. Boston's MBTA and NYC's transit, with densities hundreds of times greater than Hartford's, run $10MM's in deficits yearly.

Year's ago Paul Dunphy, an MIT trained transportation engineer, told me it would be cheaper to buy a Cadillac every 2 years for the commuters on the Boston-Weston train line than pay the deficit it ran.

Bristol has a lot of "build the field and they will come" projects. It may be a GREAT IDEA but if it is, it should be able to stand up to tough scrutiny before it is approved. By the way, who does go from down town Bristol to the rail stations in Waterbury, New Britain or Hartford??? How do you get from the stations to where you need to go? Is there a bus to West Farms Mall??? or Blue Back??

The parking lot at the train platform in Waterbury looks like a diamond field because of all the broken glass from thefts inside cars parked there.

I suspect a lot of the people supporting this "project" have never taken the train or bus to NYC. I have and do.

Tom Cosgrove

Anonymous said...

I do take the train to NYC, I also just returned from Las Vegas, where an automated monorail (yep, no driver) is one of the best ways to get around on the Strip. The cost would be less than building from scratch, where much money would go to land acquisition. It should qualify for federal funds of some sort, whether stimulus money or some other source. It would be a great alternative to driving to Hartford for commuters and families could use it to go to the new science museum, concerts and other events in Hartford. If there is a connection to Rentschaller field it would be an alternative for UCONN football games, rather than risking a DWI on the way home. Not the perfect answer to every problem (what is?) but lots of positives

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the clinton democrats still in power in washington , there won't be business / industry to go to , so why waste taxpayer money on rail service .

Concerned Conservative said...

It's silly when people compare the transportation situation (or any situation frankly) in Connecticut with places like NYC, Boston, Las Vegas, etc. Our's is a relatively small metropolitan region (much different than the aforementioned areas) and until personal transportation via the interstate highway system becomes costly beyond the point of viability, the type of public system described in this article (and others) is not practical.

cseguin said...

UConn Law had a program on the rail system - I wasn't able to attend, but I'm interested in the specifics of plan.

One question I would have is what the cost would be for daily, weekly and monthly passes. The fees for the MBTA have been going up steadily in the Boston area; I just wonder what the starting point here would be, or if that cost would be too prohibitive.

There are issues with the transportation system in CT, no doubt. The interstates weren't built in a commuter-friendly manner (unlike say the Mass Pike, which is a straight ride through the Boston area), and they seem especially prone to congestion during high-volume times.

I just wonder how much the commuter rail station will do, practically speaking, to solve the problems, and whether the costs will be worth it.

Anonymous said...

To make a fair comparison:
The cost of introducing rail service should be weighed against the cost of
of widening and maintaining the highways in order to deal with the increasing traffic congestion.

It costs public money to develop and maintain highways, it costs public money to develop and maintain rail service.

In general,the average public roadway or highway doesn't generate a profit from patron usage, so why should commuter railways?

Transportation infrastructure is transportation infrastructure.

Perhaps the folks that are opposed to rail service would think differently about the introduction of rail service if they were required to pay a fee for every mile of road upon which they drove their auto, truck, or bus.
Simply because the the "fee for road use" is hidden and not upfront , it doesn't mean it's cost free to the State.

How much money has been dumped into a few miles of road called the Route #72 expansion?
So why bemoan the an alternate form of transportation that folks will pay an ongoing fee to use?

Actually the electric trolley cars in San Franciso are still running just fine!

Concerned Conservative said...

"Perhaps the folks that are opposed to rail service would think differently about the introduction of rail service if they were required to pay a fee for every mile of road upon which they drove their auto, truck, or bus"

-Perhaps the clowns who are lucky enough not to have to commute anywhere except back and forth in and around Bristol should get a clue?