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June 1, 2022Updated: June 1, 2022 5:25 p.m.
DANBURY — News that U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., has requested a $2 million grant to take the city’s idea for a fast track to Grand Central station to the next step energized City Hall, which considers the project a key component in the downtown’s revitalization.
“Once considered a long shot, a direct passenger rail line to New York City via the MTA Harlem line is becoming more and more of a reality because of the tremendous support seen across our city,” Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito said in a prepared statement on Wednesday.
Esposito is referring to a plan floated by former Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton to provide faster rail service from Danbury to New York City by reviving the old Maybrook line to Southeast, N.Y., where commuters could catch Metro-North’s Harlem line.
The project was last in the headlines in December, when a $1 million study found the idea was “feasible both from a physical and economic perspective,” according to a consultant who led the study.
The study also found multiple areas where the railroad crosses wetlands and is near other water resources, and “noise-sensitive land uses” such as homes in the project’s path. Also a concern is how the project could affect the existing Maybrook trail in New York, which Danbury hopes to connect to.
To address those concerns, the next step is an environmental impact study that would be funded with federal money requested by Hayes. The study would be led by Danbury with input and participation from officials over the border in nearby New York.
“This project would be a valuable use of taxpayer funds because it will revitalize a currently abandoned interstate railway line known as the Beacon Line by restoring commuter services to satisfy an ever-expanding need,” Hayes said of the plan. “The restoration of passenger rail service would extend the existing public transportation network and provide benefits to all communities along the corridor.”
“It is possible the restoration of service will reduce private vehicle volumes on Interstate 84, Interstate 684, and local roadways along the interstate roadway corridors,” Hayes said, adding that the plan called for the addition of two train stops in Danbury. “Lower vehicle counts could result in less vehicular congestion and emissions and would have a lasting impact on the community.”
Hayes’ request is one of 15 funding proposals in greater Danbury and Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District that go to the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by a fellow member of Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
DeLauro and her committee will use requests by Hayes and other lawmakers to craft a spending bill for 2023.
Other projects in Hayes’ appropriations request include $2 million for a parking structure at the Connecticut Institute of Communities Health Center in downtown Danbury, and $2.1 million for emergency communication system upgrades for the New Fairfield Police Department.
For Danbury’s fast track idea, which could cut as much as 20 minutes off the current two-hour train ride to New York City, the environmental impact study is the next step before the design phase.
“I want to thank Congresswoman Jahana Hayes for her selection,” Esposito said. “This important next step will pave the way to improve rail transportation for the residents of Danbury.”