Rob Ryser | Nov. 27, 2021
Danbury leaders float a new train station on the west side with a reopened Maybrook line
DANBURY - An ambitious idea to reopen the unused Maybrook rail line to shorten the commute to New York could result in a second train station on the city’s booming west side, leaders suggested.
“(The Maybrook line) is a 14-mile stretch which happens to travel right through the west side of Danbury, not far from the mall, not far from the Summit property - and near hundreds of thousands of square feet of new development, and hundreds of new homes, and a significant investment in the western part of the city,” said Francisco Gomes, a consultant working with a task force of Danbury leaders to write a new master plan for the next decade. “Has there been much discussion where a station would be located in Danbury if there would be more than one station?”
“Exit 2 would be a stop,” answered Roger Palanzo, the city’s economic development director, referring to the Interstate 84 exit. “The downtown Danbury station would then become a hub for busses, cabs and Ubers, and you would have a (train) stop at Exit 2 in the area where you are seeing all the growth that has been mentioned.”
How likely a west side train station and a revitalized Maybrook commuter line are could become clearer as soon as early December, when Putnam County leaders across the border in New York plan to announce results of a $1 million feasibility study about the so-called fast track, which was funded in large part by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council.
“In addition to shortening the commuting time, the (increased) frequency of the trains heading into the city is just as important as the 20-minute-shorter commute,” said Sharon Calitro, Danbury’s planning director, during a master plan task force meeting last week.
The idea to create a fast track to New York, which has the backing of Metro-North President Cathy Rinaldi and state DOT Commissioner Joe Giulietti, came up during the task force’s discussion about economic development in Danbury, which has reduced the city’s commercial vacancy rate from 40 percent during the coronavirus crisis to 10 percent.
“There has been a lot of activity in Danbury over the last several years and COVID-19 has actually not slowed down Danbury much at all with respect to economic development,” said the consultant Gomes, a manager at FHI Studio. “In fact, quite the opposite.”
Among the city’s economic development highlights, Gomes noted Nuvance Health’s 12-year lease of 220,000-square-feet at The Summit, an approved $36 million Encompass Health rehabilitation hospital at The Reserve, Parker Medical leasing 88,000-square feet for manufacturing power systems and medical industry components, and an approved $80 million Danbury Proton cancer treatment facility on Wooster Heights Road.
“There clearly is a tremendous amount of interest - it’s mind-boggling, and it’s not just happening in the 6th Ward; it’s actually happening all over the place,” said Paul Rotello, a City Council member and the Democratic Minority Leader. “They say you should prefer to manage a growing city rather than a shrinking one, but Danbury is not really growing. It’s exploding.”
An east-west track between Danbury and Metro-North’s Harlem line in Southeast, N.Y., could be an engine for economic development, Gomes said, in part because it would “provide a reverse commute into Danbury from New York state.”
The fast track to New York was in the headlines earlier this month when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Danbury to suggest some of the $5 billion Connecticut will receive from the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden could be used to reopen the Maybrook line.
At the task force meeting last week, Gomes said the Maybrook line could also provide the momentum to get a $27 million plan from 2019 off the ground to transform the Danbury train station in a multi-modal transit center.
“The announcement of the federal infrastructure bill passage is very exciting because it is promising for actually funding the development of this (Maybrook) line,” Gomes said. “It’s not only the connection to New York but what it does to provide transit access to the west side of the city and what could that mean for the mall and the Summit and everything that in that part of the city.”