House panel backs train plan

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — State legislators on the Transportation Committee voted unanimously March 24 to advance legislation proposing to increase the number and frequency of trains running on the Waterbury branch of Metro-North Railroad.

Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, the legislative panel’s House chairman, observed Lamont was at the Waterbury train station highlighting his proposal to expand service on the commuter rail line as he recognized members of the bipartisan Waterbury Rail Line Caucus for their advocacy.

“There have been so many people who have been focused on this investment for a number of years, and the good news is while we are having this meeting, the governor is announcing that he is fully supportive of this investment,” he said.

Lamont proposed funding of $1.2 million in his two-year, $46 billion budget plan to increase the number of trains servicing the Waterbury line of Metro-North from 15 to 22 cars, starting in the 2023 fiscal year.

The legislation that the Transportation Committee approved March 24 directs the state Department of Transportation to increase the number and frequency of trains running on the Waterbury line, as well as adding stops in Seymour, Derby and Shelton.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and state Sen. Eric Berthel, R-Watertown, sponsored Senate Bill 576. It does not specify how many more trains and train runs should be added, or propose funding for the expansion.

There are two other House bills that also propose expansions of the Waterbury line.

More than two dozen legislators from Naugatuck Valley towns and neighboring communities are cosponsoring House Bill 5839 that would authorize $6 million in state bonding to finance operational growth of the Waterbury line. State Rep. Kara Rochelle, D-Ansonia, introduced House Bill 6077 that proposes to expand the number and frequency of trains like Senate Bill 576 without specifying any appropriations.

Both House bills were referred to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Jan. 28. There has been no action on either proposal yet.