DARIEN, Conn. – Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy met at the Noroton Heights train station Tuesday to discuss newly proposed development projects and improvements needed to transportation infrastructure.
Do you support development projects in the area of the Noroton Heights train station?
Stevenson outlined plans to redevelop the area. Federal Realty has purchased a 9-acre parcel of land in Noroton Heights, and the Palmer family plans to redevelop its property. The projects are both in the zoning process and would involve a comprehensive redevelopment of the area, that would include retail space, housing units and possibly office space.
“We fully anticipate this will be a huge draw, particularly for young professionals,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson, who was joined in her tour by state Sen. Bob Duff and state Rep. Terrie Wood, said that she has been trying for some time to get improvements made to the train station itself.
“This station is woefully in need of some care,” she said. The Department of Transportation has budgeted money to replace the platform, but Stevenson said she would also like to see improvements to the station building and the pedestrian walkway over the tracks.
The town has received a $250,000 grant to study transit-oriented development. Stevenson said parking has always been an issue, and that the town is looking on ways to improve it.
Traffic is also a major concern and will likely be further impacted by the development. Stevenson said the developers are working on traffic studies, and that improvements to the station, as well as more train frequency, could encourage people to get out of their cars and make more use of public transportation.
Murphy said that the Senate recently voted on a transportation funding bill, which he and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal voted against because it didn’t include enough money for railroad projects. He said that station and rail improvements are greatly needed, and that the United States spends only 2 percent of its GDP on infrastructure improvements, compared to 7 percent in Europe and 12 percent in China.
“Europe, which is in a continent-wide economic meltdown, is spending twice as much as we are,” he said. He added that the transportation fund has not been increased since 1993. “We’re going to have to make some better decisions about how we allocate money for this.”
He said that improved infrastructure, greater train frequency and faster trains are essential to economic development.
“I think commuters are stressed out and municipal leaders are doing the right thing but are ham-stringed by resources," he said.
"We’re sitting on this goldmine, which is a rail network that is ready to power Connecticut’s economy forward, but it’s wasting away. At the federal level, if we’re going to make that six-year transportation funding commitment, it better be robust enough to make the types of improvements we’re talking about here in Darien.”
Stevenson said that station refurbishments don’t need to take 10 years to complete if towns, governments and developers can form public-private partnerships.
“I think we have an opportunity in places like this to show taxpayers that we can do it differently, that we can form partnerships and move these projects along once they’re prioritized and deemed a necessity.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.