Plan for Restoring Passenger Rail Service to New Milford-
The Action Plan report consists of 3 separate sections (two separate
phases and an combination of the two). Two 1995 reports, Extension
of Commuter Rail Service and Feasibility Report for Extending Rail
Passenger Service Beyond Downtown Danbury, were prepared for the two
phases prior to the final combination in the Action Plan of 1996.
The report was prepared for HVCEO for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
of Middletown, CT. The report was completed on a recommendation from
the 1992 Rail Transit Development Program, which was summarized earlier
in this report.
Phase I (Extension of Commuter Rail Service (Danbury
to New Milford and Danbury to Newton)
At first the Phase 1 study was geared to looking at extending
passenger rail service to New Milford. Later, however, the town of
Newton requested that extension to Newton also be evaluated. The results
of the Phase I report were:
- Extension of passenger rail service to Danbury North (3
miles north of downtown Danbury) in conjunction with the implementation
of scheduled service enhancements was projected to generate an 80%
increase in overall ridership on the Danbury Branch in 1999 and
an additional 70% increase in ridership by 2015
- Extension to New Milford would attract additional boardings
and would reduce congestion and pollution along the Route 7 corridor.
Based on the findings of the Phase 1 report, it was recommended that
the engineering evaluation in Phase II create a phased implementation
plan for first the 3-mile extension to Danbury North and second the
11-mile extension to New Milford (the Newton alternative was dropped).
The Danbury North Extension and the New Milford Extension evaluated
in the Phase II report are discussed separately below as are the recommended
next steps following the study.
Danbury North Extension
Service extension to Danbury North was projected to result in 191
daily boardings in 1999 and 390 boardings in 2015 by Connecticut DOT’s
statewide travel demand model. Three sites were evaluated for the
location of the Danbury North Station. The site at the junction of
Route 7 and I-84 was chosen because of its superior vehicular access
off the major roadways, the existence of an underutilized 100+ space
parking lot (Park & Ride owned by Connecticut DOT), its lack of
impact on existing freight operations, its potential as a safe, convenient
passenger station that is operationally easy to serve, and the availability
The Operations Plan for the Danbury North extension recommended simply
extending the current service from downtown Danbury to the new station
with no additional trains. The service recommendation assumed that
Connecticut DOT’s programmed improvements to the Danbury Branch
Line would be completed before the new station opened. Peak service
headways were proposed at 30 minutes. The recommended changes provided
little impact on existing service.
Infrastructure improvements necessary for extension to Danbury North
included track reconfiguration near the current Danbury Station, the
construction of a station building at Danbury North, the construction
of a pedestrian overpass for both the Berkshire Corporate Park and
the White Turkey Road Extension, the installation of a signal and
communications system, and the purchase of two additional coaches.
Estimated capital and maintenance costs ranted from 9.1 to 9.9 million
dollars. The estimated operating cost was 1.3 million dollars. However,
the estimated increase in revenue from the new service was approximately
$1.5 million per year. Funding options mentioned for the new service
to Danbury North were from the Federal Transit Administration (Section
3 or Section 9) and the State of Connecticut.
New Milford Extension
Service extension to New Milford would cover an additional 14 miles
beyond downtown Danbury (11 miles north of the proposed Danbury North
Station). An additional station in Brookfield was also recommended
for future extension. The track between these two nodes was currently
owned by the Housatonic Railroad Company and was used for freight
transportation only. An exact ridership projection was not made. The
service recommendations made for the Danbury North Extension were
also made for the New Milford Extension. The exception would be that
only 9 of the 10 trains would be able to serve New Milford in order
to avoid collision on the track between New Milford and Danbury North.
Infrastructure improvements recommended for the New Milford Extension
included track rehabilitation, track reconfiguration, construction
of a high-level platform, parking lot rehabilitation, implementation
of a signal and communication system. The cost for capital and maintenance
improvements ranged from $5.8 million (if Housatonic Railroad designed
and constructed the trackwork) to $10.7 million. Operating costs were
estimated to be $2.9 million annually. Increased revenue was not estimated.
After the study was completed, the New Milford Rail Service Restoration
Society (NMRSRS) completed an opinion survey of Route 7 motorists
in New Milford and Brookfield. Both the NMRSRS and the Housatonic
Railroad Company felt that the ridership projects missed many potential
riders living n Litchfield County. The survey results showed a significant
level of local support for extension to New Milford. Using both the
results from the study and the corresponding survey, the following
three steps were recommended:
- Implement a 24-month Commuter Rail Demonstration
Project rather than immediate implementation to determine the
actual ridership demand in the region. The demonstration project
would provide commuter rail shuttle service using rehabilitated
first generation rail diesel cars from downtown Danbury to New
Milford. The cost of the demonstration project was estimated
to be between $1.1 and $1.5 million.
- Evaluate intrastate, reverse commute, and mid-day demand
on the Danbury Line.
- Involve Housatonic Railroad Company extensively in further
planning efforts. The HVCEO rail steering committee, representatives
from New Milford, Brookfield, and Danbury, and the region’s
elected officials should work together to advance the project
with Connecticut DOT.