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State lawmakers in the Valley agree lack of rail has held region back

New Haven

(WTNH) — State lawmakers from both parties came together in Naugatuck Monday to discuss how the lack of rail investments has held the region back.

They may not all agree on whether Connecticut’s highways should be tolled, but public officials in a packed Naugatuck room Monday night are on the same page on rail.

“We have been completely thwarted in our economic development in this whole corridor because of our rail.”

– Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, Bristol

They say Connecticut’s Valley Region has been getting the short end for decades.

“It has always dropped to the bottom of the line because other parts of the state go first.”

– Representative Themis Klarides, Derby, Republican Minority Leader

As the legislature prepares to tackle Governor Ned Lamont’s Transportation Plan, leaders across the Valley Region gathered to discuss a plan that would prioritize investments along the Waterbury Metro North line.

“Our vision is that ultimately we will have at peak times trains every 30 minutes and one hour the rest of the day, and when that happens the valley is going to boom.”

– Mayor Pete Hess, Naugatuck

There are 8 trains that depart Waterbury and head to Bridgeport daily, and seven that return from Bridgeport to Waterbury.

But the issue is that many of them are off peak. So, for instance, if you’re in Bridgeport trying to get back to Waterbury and you miss the 6 o’clock train, you could be there until nearly 9 o’clock at night to catch the next train.

“We need more trains. We need more trains coming every hour to two hours, not 4-5 hours away from each other.

– Marquite Hinnant, Waterbury

“Do you know of developers who have walked away from opportunities in this region because of the transit situation.

Absolutely. It happened twice here in Naugatuck, look out the window. There were two major projects right in this exact location that did not go forward in large part because of the lack of frequent and reliable train service.”

– Mayor Pete Hess, Naugatuck

The State is already taking on a $116 million signalization project in Waterbury through 2022, and the Governor’s Transportation Plan calls for more trains and high-level platforms here.

But that all hinges on more revenue sources, sources currently being debated in Hartford.

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