Train service to pick up on Danbury line [Danbury News-Times]

September 25, 2013

DANBURY — Commuters who use Metro-North Railroad’s Danbury line could see more frequent service by the holidays, officials with the state Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

With installation of a new centralized control system on the line nearly complete, Gene Colonese, the public transit administrator for DOT, said he hopes to add trains to the schedule in November.

“We’re looking to see what can be done about increasing frequency on the branch,” he said. “We are hoping to put a new schedule in place just before Thanksgiving.”

Colonese said the department is working with Metro-North officials to add about six additional trips on the line that will help fill existing gaps in services.

“Right now we have some good service during the peak hours, and we are looking to provide train service at least every two hours during the off-peak periods,” he said.

The new schedule should be ready in time for when the new signal system is completed.

It took more than a decade of advocating, three years of construction and nearly $70 million.

DOT project engineer Erich Kunse said the control system, which include a complex series of switches, power stations and signals, allows controllers from Grand Central Terminal to operate the line.

The project also included several portions of parallel track, or sitings, that will allow more than one train to travel the corridor at a time.

“Hooray!” said state Sen. Toni Boucher when she heard the project was nearly complete.

For more than 15 years, the lawmaker said she has been urging state and federal officials to move forward on the project.

“This has been a long time coming,” she said. “And now we can add more capacity to the line.”

Boucher added that building extra capacity on the line and more trains will “absolutely be my top priority,” during the next legislative session that begins in January.

“It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil,” she said.

While the project was originally slated for completion last year, delays resulted from an unexpected amount of ledge that complicated efforts to run cable along the track, as well as power stations that were delivered late from the manufacturer.

Kunse said the project was split into four phases and the third phase, which brings the new control system just south of the Bethel train station, is already online.

Crews in the coming weeks will work on integrating the new control systems with signal systems at crossings throughout the city.

The Danbury line travels nearly 24 miles to South Norwalk, with six stops in between at Bethel, Redding, the Branchville section of Ridgefield, the Cannondale section of Wilton, Wilton and the Merritt 7 station.