The continuing work on the Noroton Heights train station platform has frustrated some commuters who feel it is not moving quickly enough. Despite those feelings, Judd Everhart, director of communications for the state’s Department of Transportation, says work should be completed on schedule.
Part of the frustration is likely due to the most recent leg of the construction work that began on Aug. 22 on the northern platform. This area impacts access to the waiting room and required the relocation of the ticket vending machines.
A recent email from a commuter to The Darien Times complained of the slow progress and frustration. Everhart told The Darien Times that the project should be completed according to schedule.
“We are currently demolishing the final stage and will put forth all efforts to have it re-opened for the Thanksgiving/holiday season,” he wrote in an email.
“The contract completion date for the project is Nov. 30, 2018. As I am sure you are aware, the scope of the project is primarily replacing the existing concrete platforms and railings, in four stages, two New Haven-bound and two New York-bound, keeping one half of any platform open at all times for commuters,” he said.
One complaint received by The Darien Times was that there doesn’t appear to be steady work being done at the station by the construction crew.
“I can assure you that the contractor has been working to complete this project this year. In some locations we have encountered some very deteriorated foundations after removing the platform resulting in additional work, but the biggest impact/risk to progress by far is related to obtaining the necessary track and power outages necessary when working adjacent to the railroad,” Everhart said.
“There are many different projects vying for these outages such as the new interlocking CP 243 necessary for the replacement of the Walk Bridge, as well as the Atlantic Street project in Stamford, forcing the department sometimes to prioritize outages and resources at a strategic level,” he said.
“Both constructing and maintaining infrastructure are not zero impact undertakings, and disruption has to be expected. This project is very similar to remodeling your kitchen; rip out and replace everything while still maintaining the ability to cook in it,” Everhart said.
Darien received a federal grant of $250,000 for a transit-access study in 2015 and the Connecticut Department of Transportation began a project to replace both platforms at the Noroton Heights train station in March 2017.
Noroton Heights has become the site of major redevelopment in town and the railroad station can certainly expect more traffic as new projects bring more apartments to the area.
The Department of Transportation hired Manafort Brothers Inc. as the project’s contractor at a cost of $6.27 million in October 2016. At the time the project began, Public Works Director Ed Gentile said other insurance, fees and other charges bring the overall cost of the project closer to $8 million for the state.
Commuters and other users of the Noroton Heights train station have long said the station was in dire need of needed improvements on the convenience, aesthetic and safety levels.
Along with replacing the deteriorating concrete walkways, the project aims to improve the station’s fixtures, including the eastbound platform shelter, guard and handrails and lighting improvements. Commuters can expect general quality of life improvements around the station.
As a result of the project, the southern side of Noroton Heights parking lot will lose about 30 commuter parking spaces. Gentile said the contractor’s decision to change the method of concrete pour for the project saved an additional 20 parking spaces that may have been lost.
“The fact that they went to a poured construction… they eliminated the need for 20 additional spaces during certain times of unloading,” Gentile said at the time the project began. “I think that alone eliminated any question I had in my mind with regards to the parking availability and making sure our permit holders have spaces. So I don’t think there’s an issue.”
Town officials see the parking loss as the largest negative impact for commuters over the course of the project. However, the lot in question does not reach capacity on a daily basis and, more crowded days are usually predictable. Gentile said spots are usually available depending on the day, though Wednesdays are the most filled.
The lost spaces would be occupied by two work trailers and necessary equipment for the contractors. Construction employees have been told to park on Hollow Tree Ridge, which will be designated as contractor permit parking only. Gentile said this step was taken to ensure the commuter parking was separated and the town’s parking enforcement wasn’t improperly ticketing the project’s workers.
Noroton Heights is one of two Metro-North stations in Darien — the other is the Darien train station. The project is still estimated to be completed by the end of November.