Murphy urged to deliver transportation funds
With two major proposed developments seeking approval and others possible, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy the Noroton Heights Railroad Station needs major improvements to accommodate an influx of new residents to the area.
Murphy accompanied Stevenson on a walking tour of the station Tuesday along with state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, and state Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, to hear Stevenson’s case for focus and funding to help revamp the station.
“This station is woefully in need of some repairs,” Stevenson said.
A platform replacement project is planned for the station, and the town is about to hire a consultant for a wide-ranging study on how to improve the station to be paid for with a $250,000 state administered grant.
“In total there is 20 acres of land here that has been redesignated as part of a new business overlay zone to help and enhance the redevelopment of this area,” Stevenson said. “Both the (proposed projects) are already in the zoning process and will all be comprehensive redevelopment projects with retail, significant housing and — we’re hoping — some office space.”
The two developments in question are one by the local Palmer family across from the station, and the Federal Realty Development, a proposed project that could include up to 150 residential units and some retail and commercial use.
Those properties, in addition to another nearby development, The Heights of Darien, which includes 106 deed-restricted affordable residential units, and a fourth parcel just north of Noroton Avenue that is already zoned for affordable housing, makes improving traffic flow off of and onto I-95 and station access imperative, Stevenson said.
“In all we’re talking about 300 or 400 units that have been built or could be built,” Stevenson said.
Murphy told Stevenson he was hoping to make progress this fall in approving a six-year transportation funding bill that would significantly boost current funding levels for the types of improvements under consideration at Noroton Heights.
A three-month reauthorization recently passed will keep current funding coming to state transportation departments but doesn’t address the need for long-term funding sources to address the country’s infrastructure woes.
The visit is one of many that Murphy said he is making to try to figure out which projects are a priority to reduce state congestion.
“Democrats are debating a federal transportation bill as we speak and part of it is what percentage of it is going to go to mass transit,” Murphy said. “Senator Blumenthal and I voted against the version that came right before August recess because in part it didn’t have enough money (for transit) to supplement state funds to do some of these transit projects.”
Duff told Murphy the prospective development around Noroton Heights spotlights a common problem up and down the New Haven Line of looking toward how to increase service frequency as more people begin to live close to stations.
“The fact there is development goes hand in hand with the argument to provide increased frequency,” Duff said after the tour. “If the land is being developed to its higher and better use it is important to have more service.”