State DOT outlines $34M in renovations to Darien Train Station
DARIEN — The Darien Train Station is first on the list of stations that need improvements according to the state’s Department of Transportation.
A recent presentation from the state DOT showed those improvements are scheduled to begin in February 2022 and are estimated to cost $34 million.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson introduced the presentation and question-and-answer session, which was held virtually and recorded for viewing on Darien TV 79’s Vimeo channel.
Stevenson pointed out the commuting amenities for Darien are vital, and though commuting has slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, she expects a “robust” use of Metro-North in the future.
Tony Sardilli, project manager for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. explained the project’s impact and timeline during the virtual meeting.
The purpose of the project is to address the “current structural deficiencies at the stations platforms and bring the rest of the station into a state of good repair,” according to the DOT.
The project will completely replace all platform sections with electric-heated, fiber-reinforced polymer transit panels. The new platform will be designed in conformance with building, Americans with Disabilities Act and all applicable standards and codes.
Lighting, handrails, recycling centers and others areas will be evaluated and replaced or upgraded as needed. The elevators located on the north and south side of the station will be rehabilitated. The station’s existing grounding and bonding system will be replaced using the state DOT’s newly developed standard as well, according to the presentation. In addition to the work on the platforms, the four catenary structures within the limits of the project will be demolished and replaced.
A new emergency generator will also be installed near what is currently used as a storage utility building near West Avenue.
The $34 million project is expected to be paid with state and federal funds.
In 2016, the DOT commissioned an assessment of 43 of Connecticut’s rail stations. In 2017, the final report concluded the Darien station was the station most needed of repairs, according to the DOT.
Deficiencies include deteriorated concrete platforms and other concrete elements, non-ADA compliant elements and historically problematic elements.
The project will be staged in the extreme west end of the Leroy West parking lot. Construction is expected to be conduced in five phases, each lasting between six and seven months.
Each stage will tackle a portion of the project and impact between 15 to 30 parking spots at the train station.
The design is expected to be completed by June 2021, with construction commencing in February 2022, and completed by July 2024.
In a subsequent question-and-answer session about the project, Selectman Kip Koons asked about the heated platforms and the lifespan they are expected to have.
“It is impressive how well they work and what they can withstand,” Sardilli said, noting the heated platforms have been used in New Jersey, New York and Chicago in the winters and harsh weather. “They have a 50-year lifespan and most of them have a warranty of 10 to 25 years and they will outperform the lifespan of a typical concrete with corrosion from salt and sand.”
Several virtual meeting viewers asked if the planned canopy replacement could be full coverage on the New York side, but the team said that the canopy is one of the most expensive parts of the project.
Stevenson also asked if there would be a plan to make the station ADA-complaint while the elevators were out of commission during the construction, and the team said the plans were in the works.
Meanwhile, Darien resident Jim Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group and a transportation columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media, questioned why the high cost of the project was so high.
Sardilli explained the $34 million price tag includes all aspects of the project, from the contractor bid to engineering, inspection, a security system, and inflation adjustments. He also said the elevators and the heated platforms are more expensive outright but “in the long run and in their service life, your true cost over time will be less than concrete.”
As far as the project timing, Cameron expressed concerns about contruction deadlines, pointing out that there were delays on the completion of recent improvements made to the Noroton Heights Train Station.
Sardilli said while he couldn’t speak to why Noroton Heights ran behind, he said the contractors have a financial motive to complete their work not only on time, but early.
“We develop a calendar day schedule the contractor has to complete the job, and if he doesn’t, he is penalized a monetary amount for every day they over,” he said.
Sardilli also said the contractors don’t want to be there any longer than they have to because “the earlier they get done, the more money they will make. They want to keep the schedule, if not beat the schedule.”
The team also commented on whether the project funding was already in place, saying some federal money was involved and that the costs are currently in the capital program.
While they said it was difficult to comment on budget cuts, DOT Assistant Rail Administrator John Bernick said “based on what we are expecting, funding will be available.”
The state Department of Transportation is accepting public comment on the project until Nov. 4. Public comment can be called in to 860-944-1111, referencing project no. 0301-0195, or email DOTProject0301email@example.com.