By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess and state legislators from the Naugatuck Valley made another pitch March 3 to expand service on the Waterbury branch line of Metro-North Railroad.
The request again received support from members of the legislature’s Transportation Committee during a hearing on one of the bills proposing to increase the number and frequency of trains running on the Waterbury line.
The legislation from Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, also proposed to add stops in Seymour, Derby and Shelton on the commuter rail line connecting Waterbury and Bridgeport.
The years-long effort to expand service on the Waterbury line got a big boost from Gov. Ned Lamont this year. He proposed funding in his two-year budget plan to increase the number of trains servicing the Waterbury line from 15 to 22 cars, starting in the 2023 fiscal year.
Kelly, Hess and others testified March 3 the expansion of service on the Waterbury line is critical to business and housing development in the Naugatuck Valley.
Hess described the formerly heavily industrialized region as an untapped economic resource that is attracting more interest because of the business opportunities, and relative affordability of housing and land there.
“We have land that is raw and undeveloped right on the rail line that is ready to go,” he said.
Other state legislators, including state Reps. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, R-Seymour, David Labriola, R-Oxford, and Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, testified that expanded passenger rail service on the Waterbury line would improve the economic viability and attractiveness of the Naugatuck Valley and surrounding towns.
State Rep. Kara Rochelle, D-Ansonia, said there are tremendous opportunities for transit-oriented business and housing development.