October 21, 2009

Candidates climb aboard for commuter rail in Bristol

No matter who wins on Election Day, City Hall will remain ready to climb aboard the push for passenger rail service in Bristol.
"The train is the future of our state," said city Councilor Cliff Block, a Democrat seeking a second term.
The city, state lawmakers and business leaders have become cheerleaders for a plan to upgrade the old freight railroad line between Berlin and Waterbury so that it could also handle commuter rail, probably with stations downtown and in Forestville.
Though the cost of the proposal remains unclear -- $50 million is the low estimate – officials say it would help relieve congestion, open new doors to development and embrace a more environmentally-friendly transportation option.
“We need to all get on board,” said independent mayoral hopeful Gary Lawton.
“Just do it,” said Republican mayoral candidate Mary Alford. She called it the least expensive way to get mass transit in Bristol.
“I just have one thing to say about the rail – all aboard!” Alford said.
Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat angling for reelection on November 3, said he’d keep pushing the project because it offers “a tremendous opportunity” for the city.
Not everyone is quite as sure that train service for Bristol is going to work out.
Veteran Republican city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said he "would love to see a railroad" connecting Central Connecticut towns.
But, he said, “we have to face the facts” and recognize that most people want to remain behind the wheel. “You’re not going to see these people flock to the railroads," Rimcoski said.
Kate Matthews, a Democratic council contender in the 3rd District, said she is concerned that the project would prove costly and the commuter line “may be underutilized by our residents.”
Both Matthews and Kevin Fuller, a 1st District Democratic candidate, said study is needed to see if commuters will use it.
Some candidates said that a downtown station won’t attract passengers, let alone shoppers and day-trippers, if the city doesn’t clean up the area around the former mall site and make sure that people feel safe there.
Fuller called it “a tough subject,” but efforts to clean up Summer Street and other nearby areas are critical. People are going to want “a very nice place” to get on and off the train, he said.
Richard Scarola, a 2nd District Republican candidate, said that a train station could become “the gateway to Depot Square," the name the city is using for the 17-acre former mall site downtown.
City Councilor Kevin McCauley, a Democrat seeking a third term, pointed out there was once a train depot near Depot Square and should be again.
McCauley said the city needs to focus on getting rail and improving the lower Summer Street area to make a downtown station viable. That has to be a piece of revitalization effort, he said."It is the future of this city," McCauley said.
Scarola said that everybody agrees on the need to move forward with the train option, but the city should also explore doing more.
Scarola said the city needs to consider extending the line to Clinton and Essex to tie in to other lines and to plan on bringing period steam trains, Thomas the Train and other rail attractions to town.
He said there could be trips to Thomaston so residents could catch a show at the opera house or to Deep River to catch a steamboat on the Connecticut River.
"It will bring thousands and thousands and thousands of people back to Bristol," Scarola said.
Allen Marko, a Democratic newcomer also running in the 2nd District, said that light rail is the future, with federal money pouring into it rather than highways.Marko pointed out there is "a very strong proposal" for high speed rail from Springfield to New Haven. Commuter rail lines, including one from Bristol, could feed into that system, he said.Marko said that the line can bring people into Bristol as well as helping them reach jobs elsewhere.
"Trains run two ways," Marko said. "This rail system improvement is the way of the future," he said.City Councilor Ken Cockayne, a first-term Republican, said that he will keep pushing for the new line.
Cockayne said the city has to work with other towns along the line "or this doesn't fly."Democrat Terry Parker, a 3rd District newcomer, said that light rail could help transport residents and lessen the traffic on city streets.
Road improvements "just seem to put more traffic on our streets," Block said, while rail is a way to get the cars off the roads.Block said the cost of up to $100 million is worth it.Republican David Mills, a GOP contender in the 3rd District, said a mass transit system “would allow residents to connect with major cities in the region” and help companies such as ESPN build more connections in the area.
Councilors serve two-year terms for $10,000 annually. Voters will choose six councilors, two from each district, on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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


Anonymous said...

Just do it she says! Sounds like a fiscal conservative to me. Mass transit to where? Waterbury, Berlin? to go where and do what? Work? Is this train going to run 4 times in the morning and 4 times in the eve? Unless this train can make a connector to New York in less than 90 minutes, people will still drive to New haven.

Anonymous said...

This is another 72 all over 1)The state doesn`t have the money to redue the railways it would cost the state about 40 million so take a another hit of your pipe, and start working for Bristol. The mall site needs the help of E.S.P.N you need a big attraction then you will get the little stores and other restaurants

Concerned Conservative said...
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Concerned Conservative said...

I applaud Ms. Matthews for questioning this. Albeit Mike Nicastro makes a very good argument for it (I guess Ms. Matthews hasn't been paying attention until recently).

I would hope Matthews would use the same fiscal restraint and scrutiny when dealing with the K-8 school scheme and other issues when the special interests are the ones who support her party.

Anonymous said...

People may as well get on a train that leads to the desert. There is nothing to see or do in these towns, especially Bristol, so why bother? All the homeless people would ride the trains all day in the winter to stay warm...like they do with the buses now.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that most (if not all) people do not want to give up the flexibility of their cars. Before climbing aboard studies need to be done to determine if anyone would ride these trains and if they do how will they get the rest of the way to work. For example, if you live in Berlin and take the train to work in Bristol. The train stops at Depot Square and your job is located on Route 6 how will you get there from the train station? This is just one of many many questions that need to be resolved before Mass transit between Waterbury, Berlin, Bristol, etc. will be accepted by the general public.

Anonymous said...

ESPN ain't the answer!

And if they wanted to be there, they would have been there a long time ago.

Just like the Christmas tree Shop: if they wanted in, they would be here too!

Get real!

Anonymous said...

What special interests are you talking about, 4:26? This woman is extremely intelligent and is not going to be swayed by anyone unlike rimkowski who will bow down before his buddy Damato in a heartbeat. let's not forget that rimkowski is on the committee for the Green Hills site. It just is not possible to refurbish the old schools. O'Connel's footprint is not big enough due to the new codes that were put in effect to keep your children and my children safe. I guess your bottom line is money not safety of the children. You can spin it any way you like. The facts are there and yours are not!

As for the train, I think it's a great idea and I'm tired of the dumbing down of this city. The naysayers need to keep quiet and let the movers and shakers make things happen. We've had a long succession of people who have not believed in Bristol and I'm tired of it. Scarola doesn't want to be Avon or West Hartford. No one is asking us to be. He apparently doesn't understand that what people mean by aspiring to be like WH or Avon is to look at the great success they have had with their projects, because they have done it right, and that we should do our own thing but know that it can be done and find out what they did and learn from their mistakes so that we can just forge ahead instead of chasing our tails like we have been doing for so long.

Concerned Conservative said...

1) Education industry/administration (growth championed by liberal fiscal spending)

2) Public labor unions (basically own the Democrat Party)

3) Government sector (the growtth of which is championed by the EDemocrat Party)

4) Trial Lawyers (Democrat, liberal special interest group)

5) State contractors (state controlled by incumbent Democrats, also apparently construction is something Ms. Matthews is involved in)

Somewhat pathetic on my part that I even so slightly feel the need to answer such a stupid question, but here you are.

Concerned Conservative said...
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Anonymous said...

There is very little the council and mayor can do about the rail project other than act as cheerleaders. Let's focus on real issues facing our local elected officials, like what to do with the former mall site.

Concerned Conservative said...

6:58 AM:

Stop drinking the cool-aide the education empire groupies have been giving you.

First of all a "fact" is something that is supported by some type of reference and your "facts" are not. If O'Connell or Bingham were not conforming to a "safety code" then those two schools would be condemned.

It's more dangerous to bus a couple of thousand kids all the way to the top of Matthews Street in the middle of the winter anyway. And what about all the kids that live on Divinity and Park Streets? Are their lives in danger? Perhaps the state should provide safe housing next door to you 6:58 AM, in your cul-de-sac?

I taught my kids not to run out in the street so they know better when they get older. Obviously you take more comfort in a nanny-state type environment.

Concerned Conservative said...

I agree with Matthews that there should be more studying done before money is thrown at this (and the city buys Pasqualichio's building for a massive Forestville train station).

At this point in time, the idea (although it may be a popular fad with potential mall developers) is a "pipe dream". People will continue to use the highways and their personal transportation as long as it's affordable and practical (which it will be for years to come).

The line from Waterbury to Bristol should be included in the mass transportation plan once, in the distant future, it becomes necessary. Today it's just political folly and as some have hinted in their comments, a waste of time that should be devoted to more urgent issues.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Take a train to bristol and then what. Wait to get muged. Maybe buy your steriods from one of the police dealers.

Anonymous said...

It's great to see so many people have such positive views of where they choose to live.

Bristol is not the perfect community but it is far from the worst. It's a decent place to live. If you want to make it better you need to clean it up, repair or replace what has been neglected, and add some new assets that attract people to the community. That may involve public and/or private investments or a partnership of the two.

It's akin to your own home. If you neglect it, it will cost you more to repair. Even if properly maintained, if you don't renovate it, it will be considered less desirable by potential buyers and therefore be valued lower than similar properties that have been renovated.

Unfortunately the norm has been just do what cost the least. This strategy attracts people with the same mentality and turns away others who want and expect more.

Anonymous said...