DOT chief commits to branch line upgrades

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HARTFORD — The state Department of Transportation is doing its best to accelerate the design and installation of a signalization system for the Waterbury rail line, DOT Commissioner James Redeker told state lawmakers Thursday.

State Sen. Robert Kane (R-32) questioned Redeker about the status of planned upgrades to the Metro-North branch line running between Bridgeport and Waterbury during Redeker’s confirmation hearing.

Redeker said it is “insane” that trains currently can only run in one direction at a time on the line.

“So, we have to fix it. We’re committed to it, and it is the first time we’ve made that commitment,” he told members of the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee.

The signalized line would allow north- and southbound trains to safely pass each other, and it would permit DOT to add rush hour and off-peak trains to a line that has been long neglected.

“It is the only line in Connecticut that has no signals, which means you can only run a train from Bridgeport to Waterbury once before another train can go in the other direction,” he said. “It is insane. This is the 21st Century.”

The DOT is adding pull-outs to permit train traffic to flow in both directions.

The department has pledged up to $7 million to design the signalization system for the Waterbury rail line. The project could cost up to $70 million, according to previous estimates.

“That design is underway, and so the system will go in with signals and positive train control, and we are designing that to include passing sidings to allow service back and forth, and more of it throughout the course of the day. The line needs it. It deserves it, and the corridor is ripe for more service,” Redeker said.

The Waterbury project will be done in conjunction with the redesign of the larger New Haven signalization system.

Its design was previously projected to take 12 to 18 months. Redeker said the DOT is doing its best to accelerate the project’s design and completion.

Gov. Dannel Malloy is re-nominating Redeker to serve as DOT commissioner for his administration’s second term. His confirmation is expected.