Photo: H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media
Connecticut has received a $400,000 federal grant to study the financing of improvements to Metro-North Railroad’s Danbury and New Canaan lines, officials announced Thursday.
The Department of Transportation-funded study aims to determine whether a “regional value capture mechanism,” such as a Tax Increment Financing district or comparable structure, can be used on a regional, multi-jurisdictional level to generate the funds required to support improvements along those branch lines.
A range of options, including the potential extension of Metro-North service to towns such as Brookfield and New Milford, will be considered as part of the project.
“Improving Metro-North is essential for our economy and our environment,” said Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat whose district covers most of Fairfield County, said in a statement. “Without efficient public transportation, job creation is hindered and our region’s economic growth is stunted. Plus, a larger Metro-North ridership means fewer cars on the road, cleaner air, and less CO2 emissions.”
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, a Democrat whose district includes a large portion of the Danbury area, also expressed her support for the undertaking.
Officials at the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, the southwestern Connecticut regional planning organization to which the grant was awarded, said the project would help address longstanding challenges. The study is supposed to include extensive analysis in developing a financial and implementation plan.
“Faster, more reliable passenger rail service is a key for the region but has been held back due to a lack of funds,” Francis Pickering, WCCOG’s executive director, said in a statement. “The goal of the project is to remove this obstacle, developing consensus around an economically sustainable funding model for the Danbury and New Canaan branches, so that vital upgrades to these lines can advance without delay.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation is developing its latest four-year plan for capital projects. The DOT has outlined nearly $4 billion of projects, with about 60 percent of the funds allocated for highway and bridge projects, while the other 40 percent would go toward rail, bus and ride-share programs.