WATERBURY — The state Department of Transportation on Monday pledged up to $7 million to design a signalization system for the Waterbury rail line.
Such a system of signals and pull outs, or sidings, form the backbone of an anticollision system that would allow expanded train service on the single-track line, which runs through Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, officials said.
A signalized line would allow north and southbound trains to safely pass each other, and allow DOT to add rush hour and off-peak trains to a line that has been long neglected.
The Waterbury branch is the only portion of Metro-North that is not signalized, which for this line could cost up to $70 million, DOT Commissioner James Redeker said.
“This branch line has more potential from a growth point of view than our others, because we have not historically invested in it,” Redeker said. “It’s time to do that. It’s past time.”
Even with its current limitations, the Waterbury line has had double-digit ridership growth, Redeker said. Expanding service would only increase that ridership growth rate, he said.
“It’s a chicken and egg thing,” he said. “Add new trains, you will get more riders. That isn’t always true, but on the Waterbury line, given what we’ve seen, that is what we will see.”
Redeker said it would take the state 12 to 18 months to put the contract out to bid and hire a contractor to conduct the 12- to 18-month long design of a signalization system.
The Waterbury project, which will probably include at least three sidings, new signals and positive train control, or an automated safety system, will be done in conjunction with the redesign of the larger New Haven signalization system.