Action 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 of land.

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.

Next Steps
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.

 

Study Sections
 

Route 7 Corridor Travel Options Implementation Plan
Danbury Branch Line Shuttle Feasibility Study
Rail Transit Development Program
Danbury Branch Line Service Study
The Untapped Market for Rail Passenger Service
Action Plan for Restoring Passenger Rail Service to New Milford
Congestion Mitigation Systems Plan “Vision 2020”