DARIEN — Setting the regional agenda for the overhaul of local highways and railways was the focus of a gathering of local leaders, Monday.

Officials and members of the public gathered at Darien Town Hall for an informational session and public hearing by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments on upcoming transportation improvements.

“Obviously we have a very robust transportation system and not surprisingly it’s expensive to maintain,” said Robert Sachnin, principal planner at WESTCOG, a Metropolitan Planning Organization consisting of predominantly Fairfield County municipalities. “So there are projects that try to achieve what they call a state of good repair, which is keeping it functional, keeping it operating. The public hearing is the last of the 30-day comment period, which will end on Aug. 7.

WestCOG members will take action on the draft at their Aug. 17 meeting.

The three-year plan includes large fixes to Interstate 95 from the New York to Exit 7 in Stamford. According to Sachnin, the state of the pavement and bridges along the corridor will be analyzed, the median barrier will be slightly elevated, and new lighting will be installed to help driver visibility.

Present were Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136, and Darien first selectman and WestCOG Chairman Jayme Stevenson, for a presentation on a draft of Southwestern Connecticut’s 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program.

General improvements to the full stretch of the Metro North New Haven line will also be explored, including new rail ties, signal equipment, as well as funding to other state transit agencies.

If approved by WestCOG in the coming weeks, the draft would be sent to the state Department of Transportation and then federal agencies before work could begin, likely in 2018.

More Information

For information on WestCOG and the draft Transportation Improvement Program, visit westcog.org

“What happens is the MPO does its part, it goes back to ConnDOT. ConnDOT will package that for federal approval and it goes either to the Federal Highway Administration or the Federal Transit Administration,” Sachnin siad.

Roughly $1.76 billion in federal and state funds has been pledged to the projects.

The majority of projects are slated within larger municipalities, like Stamford and Norwalk, for a variety of reasons, according to Stevenson.

“They obviously have more need than smaller towns. But they also have full departments that are used to finding the projects, documenting the projects, filling out applications and doing all the engineering. So they generally have a leg up,” Stevenson said.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1